Just three weeks ago, Xavier Keeling did not know whether he would be honoring his commitment to play basketball for the Indiana Hoosiers. Now, it seems like Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson was the one recruiting him from day one.
"He and Coach (Mike) Davis seemed mainly the same to me," said Keeling. "When I first made my decision it was mainly because of the coach, but this time I thought about the history of Indiana and I just wanted to meet the new coach and some of his staff. I knew if I had a good feeling about him, I'd still like Indiana.
"Our meeting went well and when it was over I knew I would love to play for him."
The meeting between the 6-6, 220-pound Keeling and Sampson was not the usual recruiting meeting. Instead of selling Indiana to Keeling, Sampson had the duty of reselling the program and its future. After the initial meeting Keeling and Sampson already seem to be on the same page.
Among the changes discussed by the two were the changes Sampson wants to make to the Indiana facilities – improvements that will give Sampson the edge he had while recruiting one of the nation's top recruiting classes last season at Oklahoma.
"Coach Sampson talked to me about how he wants everything to be new or upgraded at Indiana," said Keeling. "I think that's important for recruiting. You want new things and nice things you can use. I saw schools with newer facilities and it's a noticeable difference. Always having the chance workout, get in the gym, new equipment. Those are things kids want."
An important focus for Keeling is Sampson's emphasis on the defensive end of the floor.
"Coach Sampson told me how he focuses more on defense and that's the style of player I am anyway," said Keeling. "I love to play defense and get up and down the floor. I think next year everyone is going to get a fresh start and it should be an easier transition for me. I think I'll have a chance to show I can play there."
After going through the storm that followed Indiana basketball for the past two seasons, Keeling now has a better understanding of what it means to commit to a program. After originally picking Indiana for former head coach Mike Davis, Keeling chose to honor his commitment to Indiana and play under Sampson. Keeling just hopes Sampson will be the only coach he plays for at Indiana.
"I think Coach Sampson will be there the entire contract and I don't think it will be like when Coach Davis was there," said Keeling. "I want to play all four years for the same coach. What happened to Coach Davis hurt the program a lot. Players look forward to playing for the guy recruiting them and they create relationships. If that coach leaves those players usually won't stay with the school."
Keeling watched carefully to see if that would be the case at Indiana. Shortly after Davis announced his resignation from Indiana, Keeling had hinted his commitment could hang on what Robert Vaden and D.J. White planned to do. But after seeing Vaden announce his intention to leave for UAB and White's commitment to the team's conditioning program, Keeling picked Indiana for his own reasons.
"When I heard Robert was going, I thought I would have loved to play with him, but he has to do what he has to do," said Keeling. "I was happy D.J. stayed, but that had nothing to do with my decision. I've talked to him and he told me he said he likes the staff and he's enjoying the workouts. I made my own opinions, though."
Now that he is fully committed to Indiana, Keeling will sit back to watch who else Sampson brings to Bloomington and will have himself ready to contribute as soon as he steps on campus this summer.
"I'm going to be up in June. I think we're going to be preparing for another trip to the Big Dance and everyone is going to have fun."
Keeling is coming off a senior season where he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds, earning honorable mention Class 5A All-State honors in Alabama.
Keeling Keen On IU
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