What Xavier Rathan-Mayes did Wednesday night against Miami was nothing short of amazing, arguable the greatest 4:38 of basketball performed by a single player that I’ve seen.
With the Miami Hurricanes holding an 18-point lead with 4:38 remaining, Rathan-Mayes delivered 30 points, including 26 in a row. At one point, he connected on eight straight baskets, including six from behind the arc.
Despite the Seminoles falling short in the end, it’s fair to call XRM’s performance Jordaneske.
The effort will surely peak the interest of NBA scouts, but is the freshman really NBA ready? Actually, that’s not a fair question, most players who leave early aren’t NBA ready. The question should be, should Rathan-Mayes go pro?
Coming out of high school he was a prolific scorer with a sweet stroke from deep. He actually was a travel teammate of Andrew Wiggins (and some thought he could help convince the future NBA first-round pick to come to Florida State…he didn’t).
He was forced to redshirt last year because he was academically ineligible. However, playing along side Aaron Thomas, the Seminoles were expected to have one of the most exciting back courts in the ACC.
After missing the first game of the season against Manhattan, Rathan-Mayes had a good, but inconsistent, start to his career, getting held in check by Providence (five points) and UCF (0-4 from floor), but did score a pair of 20+ point games, attacking the rim against Massachusetts, while hitting perfection (5-for-5) from three against the The Citadel.
Yet, when Aaron Thomas was declared ineligible for the year, Leonard Hamilton’s grand plan fell apart. Thomas was the clear leader on this squad and now both the scoring load and leadership role would fall onto Rathan-Mayes’ shoulders.
At first, he responded by trying to be a distributor. In the first half dozen games without his back court mate, the freshman point guard put up double-digit shots just once, handing out nine assists on multiple occasions. Of course the problem was, the other FSU players weren’t as good as XRM at scoring. I can’t count the number of assists he should have had if the Seminoles shot better.
However, as the loses began to pile up, Rathan-Mayes began a return to the score-first role he was known for coming out of high school. Capable of aggressively attack the paint and hitting from deep, he had four straight double digit games in late January, including 35 in a loss to North Carolina. He hit 14-for-26 shots in that game, including five threes.
Overall, the freshman is a big reason for the Seminoles winning five of eight recently (before the latest two-game losing streak), yet he remains inconsistent (as a rookie should be). He turns the ball over at an extremely high rate, giving the rock away 97 times, about 3.5 per game.
Yet, it’s his scoring ability that will make NBA scouts wet themselves. As we’ve seen in the past and against Miami, he can be lights out and is not afraid of the big shot. However, I’ve heard someone describe him as a “hunter,” which means he can sometimes forget to run the offense, instead searching for his shot. When he has gone into hunting mode, smart teams have been able to restrain him.
Against Duke two and a half weeks ago, he was held to 2-for-7 from the floor and no one will confuse the Duke perimeter defense with Virginia’s, yet Quinn Cook was able to keep him bottled up all night. At one point in that game, as FSU made their comeback, Hamilton had his best player sitting and watching.
Personally, I think he needs another year. He needs to continue to work on his decision making and his point guard skills. Despite good length, he’s not a big guy and at the next level it’s point guard or best. If he can continuee to develop, he could be the best guard to come out of Leonard Hamilton’s FSU, a list that includes Michael Snaer and Tony Douglas.
He entered the game as the only freshman in the ACC to lead his team in scoring (13.6 ppg), assists (4.4 apg) and steals (1.1 spg).
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