Xavier Rathan-Mayes played some point guard in his final year of high school. But the leap from running a team in high school to running a high major basketball team is like learning to drive a stick shift in the empty airport parking lot and then jumping right in to rush hour traffic in San Francisco. He was supposed to be eased into the role, but Devon Bookert needed foot surgery early in the year, and the ball was given to XRM. Then Aaron Thomas was declared ineligible. So much for easing him in.
XRM's scoring prowess has been known. He's got all the moves. He can step back, step through, Euro step, jab, rock, spin, yo-yo - he's got them all. The transition to college is learning how and when to use those moves against a better caliber opponent. Couple that with learning how to run a team in the game's best conference, and you've got the making of a daunting learning curve.
Rathan-Mayes began the year without much of a splash. First, he sat out a one-game suspension, and then when he did play he went scoreless in his debut versus Northeastern. Four days later he made 1-6 shots vs Providence and scored 5 points. Already fans began questioning his reputation as a top 50 recruit. But the coaches didn't question him. Instead, they stuck him into the starting lineup. All he did was score 22 and 26 points in back-to-back games.
Freshmen though, have a hard time with consistency. For every two or three steps forward, he seemed to take at least two steps back. We cautioned patience, and wrote that his breakthroughs would likely come in bursts rather than a long steady climb. After his 22 and 26 point games, he followed that up by turning the ball over six times against Charleston Southern and seven against Nebraska. There's a reason they say the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.
His erratic play continued until ACC play hit. Then he hit that first burst of development. Since Virginia Tech, three weeks ago, he's been a different player.
It wasn't just the 35 he dropped on North Carolina (coming within three points of his father's best game at FSU). That certainly got people's attention, but he'd been playing great already. In his first 13 games his offensive efficiency had been 100+ just twice. In the six games since then he's averaged 107.
In fact, his numbers have improved across the board.
|Prior to ACC play||32.0||11.7||25.9||50.7%||23.0%||6.1||5.1|
|Since VT game||36.5||18.5||28.0||55.0%||27.3%||4.7||2.6|
Since ACC play began (the weird December game versus Notre Dame is lumped into pre-ACC) his points have gone from 11.7 per game to 18.5. Part of that is volume (he's taking more shots) but he's also been more efficient, raising his 2-pt% and his 3-pt%. His 3-pt% is still terrible, but as he becomes more comfortable with the college game, there's no reason to think he won't raise that percentage at least into the mid-30s.
The most exciting numbers are the two that fans notice the least. He's using more of the team's possessions (26% vs 28%), and, despite being called on to do more, his turnovers have been cut in half. He was quoted numerous times in the early season saying that he had to learn to be more careful with the ball, and it turns out that wasn't just athlete-speak. That is exactly what is happening.
Does this mean he'll play like he did versus North Carolina every night? Of course not. Being a great point guard for a game doesn't make you a great point guard. But over the past six games he's been playing fantastic basketball, and doing it against better teams than many FSU played in the early going.
This is a long year for Florida State fans, but with development like XRM's it's easy to be excited for the future. His, and the team's, next test is tomorrow night at home versus Wake Forest.