Hungry Jack's NBL
Rathan-Mayes Warning to NBL over What Hawks Backcourt Can Do
Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike
With a girlfriend from Sydney, a coach on an opposition team he considers family and opponents including someone he sees as a brother, Xavier Rathan-Mayes couldn't wait to join the NBL and now has issued a warning of what he and Tyler Harvey can do with the Illawarra Hawks.
While this #NBL22 season with the Hawks is the first for Rathan-Mayes at the Hawks, coming to live in Australia was something girlfriend Rachelle had been gearing him up for, and there are no shortage of familiar faces for him across the league.
Rathan-Mayes right now is enjoying getting to know his girlfriend's home country with her originally from Sydney and spending time with her family around the Christmas season, but almost everywhere he looks around the NBL he sees someone he has a connection with.
That includes Perth Wildcats coach and fellow Canadian Scott Morrison, Melbourne United captain Chris Goulding and South East Melbourne Phoenix gun Mitch Creek.
As much as Rathan-Mayes is looking forward to reuniting with each of them, he is just as excited to try to beat them on the floor and especially as he builds his backcourt bond with Tyler Harvey.
Harvey had a standout first season in the NBL finishing up runner-up MVP and in the All-NBL First Team, and now there is every chance he becomes even more dangerous with Rathan-Mayes able to split the playmaking and scoring responsibilities alongside him.
And Rathan-Mayes feels what they are capable of together is only going to keep improving.
"The ability to play with another guard who relieves the pressure off you is such a help. You see it now throughout the world and in the NBA when you look at Dame and CJ together or the young backcourt of Haliburton and De'Aaron Fox," Rathan-Mayes said.
"These teams are having these two amazing guards in the backcourt who complement each other really well. I think that we have that unique ability for Tyler and myself to do that with our team. I feel like when I come in I'm able to allow to Tyler to go and be more of a scorer than a facilitator so we can share those roles.
"I feel like I have the ability to do the exact same thing. Then we are matched by a guy like JJ who is a constant threat and you can't take a step off him in the corner or it's a three. Then we have Duop, AC and all these other guys that we have, but I think the backcourt of me and Tyler is really unique in this league and it can be a special backcourt for us.
"The scary part about this whole thing is that we haven’t figured it completely out yet. Me and Tyler are still figuring it out because I was a late signing, and I came in at a time when I just had to jump right into things after these other guys had been going at it for eight, 12 or 16 weeks or however long it was.
"When Tyler and I can put things together full circle, I think it will be scary for the rest of the league and we'll cause a lot of problems for a lot of people. It's just the tip of the iceberg right now for us."
As for those he has a basketball connection with here in the NBL, Rathan-Mayes worked out in California this past American summer with Chris Goulding while Mitch Creek is someone who is one of his closest friends.
"This summer alone to be training with Chris Goulding when we were both in LA which was really cool. Chris and I would work out with our trainers and then we'd go golfing so I had that relationship," Rathan-Mayes said.
"Another person who I consider like my brother now and somebody who I'm really close to is Mitch Creek. He's obviously at South East Melbourne and he is somebody that I talk to constantly and we are very supportive of each other with everything that we're both doing.
"He is somebody that I can reach out to so it's great having those type of people around and having great people like that in your corner."
That all means that Rathan-Mayes can't wait especially for the chance to take on Creek and his Phoenix team for the first time.
"I'm definitely excited to get to play against Mitch's team for the first time. I'm excited to match up and playing against him, he's obviously having a great start to the season," he said.
"He is an MVP candidate and rightfully so. He does a little bit of everything and he is such a huge piece for what they do because he can do it all. He can shoot the three, he pushes the ball, he passes the ball, he defends and he scores. He does everything and is a special player, and one of, if not the best player in the NBL right now.
"He's somebody who I'm excited to match up against and play against. Even though we are good friends, we can't be friends for those 40 minutes. After that we can hug and go to dinner or whatever, but for those 40 minutes that we have to play, we're not allowed to be friends."
And should Rathan-Mayes find himself in the position of Matthew Dellavedova with Creek charging at him to throwdown a dunk, the Canadian will certainly be making him earn it friendship or not.
"If that happens, it might have to give him a really hard foul," Rathan-Mayes said as he laughed.
"If I see his strong self coming at me the way that he does, I might just have to take a foul for the team I think."
Then there is new Wildcats coach Morrison who Rathan-Mayes has also formed a lifelong bond with as part of the Canadian national team.
"Coach Morrison is someone that I'm really close with and we built a relationship together with our involvement on the national team, and we've had a close bond since then," Rathan-Mayes said.
"He's an amazing guy and we were just talking the other day about how when Perth comes out here we'll go get dinner and catch up. He's family to me and somebody that I've been coached by, and to have that connection out here in the NBL is definitely a really special thing."
However, the true pull down under from Rathan-Mayes came by having a girlfriend, Rachelle, who is from Sydney and who he met while he was in New York tied to the Knicks of the NBA and playing with Westchester in the G-League back in 2017 fresh out of college at Florida State.
Rachelle got him ready for what to expect to live in Australia but the fact that he is now living and playing somewhere so close to her hometown after the pair met across the world in New York is still a pinch yourself moment.
"We actually met in New York when I was with the New York Knicks and it's all just gone on from there. It's amazing how it's all turned out that I'm now playing basketball so closer to where she's from," he said.
"When you think about it, I could have signed to play anywhere in the world, and I have tried some different places, but for this to be where I've ended up is amazing, and it's a beautiful place to be. I'm across the world from home but to be able to have family here on her side makes it really special.
"I was learning a lot about Australia from her with all the things she talked about. She's also Lebanese so it's been fascinating learning about her culture and now being here with her family in Australia is an amazing added piece to what I'm doing.
"I got to learn a little bit through her about what it was all about before I came here, and now experiencing the people and the culture, and how things operate for myself is an amazing experience. She was able to prepare me for it, but now it's surpassing anything I expected."
Having experienced mostly white Christmases throughout his life in Canada and the United States up until now, Rathan-Mayes is finding himself excited to be in the middle of summer for the festive season down under too.
"I am excited for Christmas. I'm from Canada so all I've known my whole life is a snowy Christmas. But my lady has been talking about going to the beach on Christmas Day and it's just such a different experience for me," he said.
"I've never heard of this before but I'm excited for it and I can't wait to experience it for the first time. I'm sitting outside right now and am sweating, and it's nice and a really cool thing because normally it's way too cold to even go outside at this time of year back home."
On top of all of that, Rathan-Mayes is loving life in Wollongong, the beachside culture and the way the community loves their Hawks.
"It's an amazing thing how much the people here love the Hawks. It's kind of like being in my college environment like Florida State where that was our only main team in the town so the love and appreciation from the community is there which is really cool," he said.
"I'm fitting in great. I feel very fortunate to be in an organisation where I have such great people around me, and people who have welcomed me with open arms. It truly is a real family atmosphere and obviously Wollongong is a smaller city, but the people are so friendly and the culture is amazing.
"I like it here, it's very calming and it's a beach town and not that busy. It only takes five to eight minutes to get anywhere in the town so I really like it here, and am finding myself enjoying everything about it."
Rathan-Mayes is part of a team that deserves to have high hopes for what they can achieve this season too under legendary coach Brian Goorjian.
Not only is there the backcourt of himself and Harvey, but there's the firepower with Antonius Cleveland, Justinian Jessup and Duop Reath along with strong role players Sam Froling, AJ Ogilvy, Harry Froling, Tim Coenraad, Emmett Naar and Isaac White.
The Hawks opened the season beating the Adelaide 36ers, Sydney Kings and New Zealand Breakers before a loss in Brisbane, and Rathan-Mayes has no doubt their best is yet to come.
"We are just at the tip of the iceberg with this team, we're still figuring it out. We are coming together well but we did only have the opportunity of playing two pre-season games," Rathan-Mayes said.
"We haven’t been able to get out there to test how it works against real opposition too many times, and we are still figuring out what works well together and what doesn’t. We are still in that feeling out process and for us, it's not ideal having to go through the preparation we did and having to deal with this in the beginning of the season when you'd like to figure it out with six or seven pre-season games.
"We didn’t have that luxury but it's just something we have to deal with and we have still done a really good job of navigating those trials and tribulations that we've had to go through. We are figuring it out with a few wins including a couple of really good performance and then New Zealand was a great test for us that we won in double overtime.
"That was a character win for us and then we were back on the road to Brisbane. We were right there at the end but just weren’t able to close it out, but I feel like we are trending in the right direction and doing all the right things. We go to practice every day and work on getting better. We are taking a step in the right direction every single day and that's what you want to see evolve as a team."