It's November of 2017. A young core enters their first year in the NBA G League with the hopes of using the NBA’s minor league platform to springboard themselves to greater pastures.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes came out of the gate with a strong performance in his professional debut with the Westchester Knicks. He recorded 21 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists on 47.1 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from deep. Consistency, continued growth, and winning games can propel a G League player to the NBA. In his lone season in Westchester, that’s what Rathan-Mayes showcased.
Not only was he apart of one of the top backcourts in the G League alongside Trey Burke, but he was one of the top rebounding guards and was the main facilitator on one of the top teams in the NBAGL.
He was the only player to average at least 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals during the 2017-18 season. The former Westchester guard posted the franchise’s first triple-double and totaled four of those in 43 games.
On March 5, his dream came true. After working diligently to improve his game and playing a huge role in Westchester winning 32 games, Rathan-Mayes earned a promotion to the NBA. The Memphis Grizzlies signed him to a 10-day contract and became the seventh Westchester Knick to earn a call-up. Rathan-Mayes detailed his reaction when he found out about his promotion to the Association.
“We were in Lakeland, Florida and I got called up,” Xavier Rathan-Mayes told Ridiculous Upside. “I was just sitting in the room with my best friend. It was great. It was great to be able to have that experience. Getting called up was a dream come true and to be able to play in the NBA. I just got a taste of where I want to be long term. That’s what I’ve continued to work towards and that’s where I see myself for the foreseeable future.”
Rathan-Mayes checked in at the 6:34 mark in the first quarter. Then-interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff gave the rookie guard his first assignment, which was guarding Tony Parker. Rathan-Mayes called that his “welcome to the league” moment, while stating that was a surreal moment for him.
“Surreal moment,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Tony Parker is somebody that’s won an NBA championship. He’s a Hall of Famer and somebody that you look up to watching the NBA Finals. It was a unique experience. It took me a couple minutes to kind of get my feet centered and realize that I belong here. And once I did, I played really well. I had a pretty good game, and like I said, it was a great experience.”
On the first Memphis possession of the second quarter, he connected on a floating jump shot from nine feet out. That was his first NBA basket. It’s a moment that kids dream of growing up and it was a special feeling for him.
“It meant a lot,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Of course it was a special feeling when you score your first points in the NBA. That’s special. That’s something you dream about as a little kid, so definitely was a special and unique experience. I got to have my mom and my brother there watching my game. It was a special moment for us.”
The Westchester Knicks hung up two call-up banners at the Westchester County Center— one on the opposite side of the scorers table on the second level and one by the VIP entrance. The banners will forever link those players to Westchester. As the years go by, people can always look up and remember what those players did for the organization and the consistent development they made with the team.
The former Westchester guard stated that it’s great to be forever linked to an organization following his call-up, while adding that it’s a tribute to his hard work, the coaching staff, and the organization.
“It’s great, man,” Rathan-Mayes said. “It’s just a tribute to my hard work and every thing that I’ve worked for, but that’s just the beginning. I’m extremely thankful to the Knicks organization and Westchester for giving me an opportunity right out of college. That’s just a start. Hopefully when I sign, I can look back and say that’s where it all started. It will be a tribute to the coaching staff and that organization for everything they have done for me.”