Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Canadian guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes looking to make impact in training camp with Knicks
From Andrew Wiggins to Tristan Thompson to Kelly Olynyk, Canadians have announced their presence in the NBA with authority.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a former teammate of Wiggins with the CIA Bounce AAU program, hopes to make an impact as well when he joins the Knicks in training camp on a partially guaranteed contract.
“Most definitely, it means a lot to be from Canada, to represent this country and be another one of those guys to flourish in the NBA,” Rathan-Mayes, 23, said Sunday by phone from Toronto where he’s training with the Canadian Senior National Team for the upcoming FIBA AmeriCup 2017. “Tristan Thompson is like my big brother and like a mentor to me. Just to see some of the things that he’s doing. Andrew is one of my best friends, and Tyler Ennis [of the Lakers] is another one of my best friends. It’s definitely special, the culture that we’re building with Canada Basketball and hopefully we can continue that and do really special things here in the future.”
The 6-foot-4 Rathan-Mayes averaged 12.4 points and 4.5 assists in three seasons at Florida State. He was one of three rookie free agents the Knicks signed this month, along with Jamel Artis out of Pittsburgh and Nigel Hayes from Wisconsin. All are on partial guarantees for one year.
Rathan-Mayes will compete with Canada in the FIBA AmeriCup in Argentina from Aug. 25-Sept. 3. The Canadian roster also includes Andrew Nicholson of the Portland Trail Blazers and Joel Anthony, who spent last season with the San Antonio Spurs.
After that, he will head to training camp with the Knicks. His father, Tharon Mayes, is a Connecticut native and former FSU standout who played in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers and L.A. Clippers.
“I’m definitely excited,” Xavier said. “I’m from Toronto. My dad is from New Haven, Conn., so being in Connecticut a lot we were always up in New York. New York is a team that I followed. I’m a huge Carmelo Anthony fan. Great organization, great tradition, so I’m definitely excited to be part of such a storied franchise.”
The Knicks have 15 guaranteed contracts so Rathan-Mayes will have long odds to challenge the new backcourt corps of Ramon Sessions, Damyean Dotson and first-round pick Frank Ntilikina. He could be looking at spending some time in the NBA G-League.
“Going in I’m just looking to be myself,” he said. “I’m a guy that’s going to pick up 94 feet, a guy that takes a lot of pride defensively. I’m a guy that gets people involved, gets guys easy shots and everybody knows that I’m able to score. And just my leadership qualities, that’s something I’m trying to bring.”
Said Canadian National Team Coach Roy Rana: “He’s obviously a tremendously talented offensive player who’s managed to develop into a very, very good all-around point guard. He obviously had great impact at Florida State and has really rounded into a solid point guard who can score and create for others and really defend. They’re getting a well-rounded young player who’s continuing to develop.”
Rathan-Mayes is also hoping Anthony remains a Knick despite the team’s willingness to trade him for the right pieces. Anthony reportedly will only accept a trade to the Houston Rockets to play with James Harden and Chris Paul.
“Most definitely,” he said. “Carmelo’s a guy that I consider to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think nothing would be better than to learn from somebody like that day in and day out during practices. Just to pick his brain every single day I think that would be special.”
With the talent drain from the East including former Eastern Conference All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez, and Jeff Teague all heading West, there’s no reason the Knicks couldn’t challenge for a playoff spot.
“I definitely think we have a chance to be successful,” Rathan-Mayes said. “The NBA’s obviously the best league in the world and it’s tough to win games but we have a great coaching staff. We have a great system put in place for us and I think that if we all are able to buy in as a collective unit, I definitely think that we can win games.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.