The time is now for Xavier Rathan-Mayes to take over, and he knows it.
The rookie point guard from Florida State has been a catalyst to the Westchester Knicks’ league-leading 24-13 record, posting 15.8 points, 17.1 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game — and showing NBA personnel that he can produce all over the court.
Westchester’s head coach Mike Miller has watched Rathan-Mayes all season long, commending him on his balance on both ends of the court.
“I just think it is the balance to his game that makes him so special. He defends so well, and really takes pride in that end of the floor,” said Miller. “He runs the team, can score for us on the offensive side, and his decision making, those are all things that he has really been focusing on, and I think we are seeing all of it coming together at a very good level right now.”
In the NBA G League, a never-ending carousel of moving pieces. So when Rathan-Maynes’ backcourt mate Trey Burke — the former AP Player of the Year at Michigan — got called up to the New York Knicks, Rathan-Maynes treated it as a positive moment for his development, rather than wondering why his name wasn’t called.
“I am kind of like our lead-guard now. Trey was our guy that we went to offensively, and I was able to play off him, and get assists off his play, but now I am our feature guy” said Rathan-Mayes. “The ball is in my hands a lot of the time, and the offense is going through me. So it is my job to make the right plays for our team.”
Playing alongside a guy like Burke, who had his share of prior NBA experience, taught Rathan-Mayes the ins and outs of being a pro.
“I’m thankful to have had Trey for the beginning of this year. To learn from him each and every day, and how he helped me grow into the position I am in now, was great,” said Rathan-Mayes. “He was a guy that was so patient with the basketball. He was so good at picking his spots, where to score and when to get guys involved, and I think that I learned that from him and put it into my game.”
Becoming a professional athlete can be a tough transition period for many. Coming from such a structured lifestyle during college, figuring out how to effectively spend your time as a full-time basketball player in the pros can be harder than it seems, Rathan-Maynes said. However, has surrounded himself with the right people, and has taken this new chapter of his playing career in stride.
“It definitely has been different. Going from having classes during the day, to this is what I do for a living now,” said Rathan-Mayes. “I have such a great mentor in Keith Bogans, and he is someone that I rely on and lean on through this process. I just take what he tells me and absorb it, and try to replicate it out there on the floor.”
Keith Bogans, who was an 11-year veteran in the NBA, joined the coaching staff in Westchester at the start of this season, and has been a mentor and guide for Xaiver as he figures out how to be the best player he can be in each opportunity.
“When I first met him, I took a liking to him for his passion for the game and how hard he plays,” said Bogans. “I have always thought that it is hard to relate to a player if you never have played before, so I understand that and have just been trying to relate with him, walk in his shoes a bit.”
Rathan-Mayes has learned a lot from Bogans, and is constantly listening and trying to implement new things to his game.
“I think the biggest thing that we are always talking about is making sure that I am playing downhill,” said Rathan-Mayes. “We watch a lot of film, and he always says that when I play side-to-side, that I am not as good, but when I play downhill and aggressively, I am really hard to stop.”
Bogans echoed him.
“I love his size at the point guard position. I love when he is attacking and going downhill, as opposed to playing east and west,” Bogans said on Rathan-Mayes’ playing style. “When he is going downhill and putting that pressure on the defense he is unstoppable.”
Learning from someone who has been played in the NBA for so long, you adopt a mindset to not sweat each bump in the road, and Bogans has instilled that outlook into Rathan-Mayes.
“I said that he is either the head of the snake now, or you’re the dog running with his tail between his legs, pick what you want to be,” Bogans said. “And he has chosen to be the head of the snake, and I think he has really taken advantage of the opportunity to show that he can lead the team and be a good point guard.”