With an opportunity to pursue his college dream in either basketball or football, Huntsville, Ala., product Xavier Keeling followed his heart.
Fresh off a junior football season that included All-Metro honors as a defensive end, the 6-6, 218-pounder from J.O. Johnson H.S. was already getting interest from a handful of major Division I football programs. With that in mind, he went out for football this fall, spent a week with the team, and then decided that he'd had enough.
"I just couldn't do it anymore," said Keeling.
With that move, Keeling provided a definitive answer as to which sport he was going to pursue at the college level.
"I love basketball so much, I just decided it was time to put football aside to work on my weaknesses as a basketball player," said Keeling, who participated in the ABCD All-Star camp this summer. "There was no doubt that basketball was the sport that I preferred."
That's a bit of rarity in a state that is known for its affinity for football, but Keeling didn't share that same sort of love for life on the gridiron.
"I was just playing football because I was good at it, and it was another way for me to get to college if I needed it," said Keeling.
Thanks to his prowess on the basketball court, though, Keeling no longer needs football. Thanks to a junior season during which he averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds per game, coupled with a strong summer performance on the AAU circuit, Keeling has become a coveted basketball recruiting target for a handful of programs, including Indiana.
"(Indiana) really started showing interest in me in the last couple of weeks," said Keeling. "They saw me in a (Las) Vegas Tournament. (IU Coach) Mike Davis hadn't had a chance to come see me play, but he saw me out there and liked what he saw."
Keeling's performance in Vegas landed him an IU scholarship offer from Davis. Keeling said he plans to take an official visit to IU this fall, and he said he has Indiana among his leaders along with Ole Miss, Tennessee and Auburn.
One of the things that is appealing about the IU program is the fact that former AAU teammate D.J. White is in Bloomington. White and Keeling played together on the Alabama Lasers AAU team, and Keeling is well aware of the impact that White had on the Hoosiers in his first season.
"I've seen Indiana play a couple of times, and knowing one of their players, D.J. White, is big," said Keeling. "D.J. is a great player, someone who plays really hard, and a great team player as well."
Keeling, meanwhile, is a player that most expect to play at the small forward/wing guard position at the college level. He's a gifted rebounder who has been spending his off-season working on his jump shot so that he can do more damage on the perimeter.
"My weaknesses were really just shooting the ball and getting confidence in it, and I've been working on that as much as I can," said Keeling.
Keeling said that one of the things that stood out about his game to Davis, meanwhile, is the approach that he takes on the floor.
"(Davis) said he loves the way that I play, and he thinks I can play in their league, and I play aggressive and I show a lot of heart when I play," said Keeling.
Keeling Follows His Heart
Peegs.com Top Stories
Inside the Locker Room: Hoosier HysteriaThe Hoosier Hysteria version of the Inside the Locker Room is often one of the most talked about of the year. Don't miss the latest scoop.
Hoosiers looking to get offense back on trackThe Hoosiers have been hard at work trying to fix the little mistakes that have plagued the offense the last few weeks.
Hoosier Newsstand, Oct. 21Get the latest articles on Indiana basketball, football and other sports in today's edition of the Hoosier Newsstand.
A look at the WildcatsZach Pereles from Inside NU talks to Peegs.com about the Northwestern Wildcats and tomorrow's match-up with the Hoosiers.