Meet Xavier Rathan Mayes: The road from Scarborough to the NBA
Tell us a little bit about yourself. For example, growing up what were your interests? Have they changed or did you always have a main concept/idea in your mind that you wanted to achieve?
Growing up, my dad played for Florida State University so from a young age I had a ball put into my hands. I was born and brought up in Scarborough, since my dad had to come out to Toronto to play and train here. It’s been a journey coming from Toronto, specifically Scarborough. It’s what I represent, it’s been a special journey for me, especially since there have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. My dad always talks about how there’s beauty in the struggle, and that’s definitely something I’ve experienced to achieve my dream of being in the NBA. I’m just grinding to be the best possible player, and the best possible person that I can be. I want to represent my family, my country, and my city in all the right ways, when I get the opportunity to. I want to play at a high level no matter where I am. Right now, I am out in Israel for a month and a half, trying to make the play-offs, and good money for the summer. I hope to use that money to take care of my family and travel. That’s me in a nutshell, travelling all over the world in a short period of time, and continuing to do that.
What your day to day life like? Since it may not look the same, what’s an overview of your week?
My biggest goal coming to Israel was obviously to help the team out with the games, and do what I love at a high level. Right now, I’m in a big push to sign an NBA contract! I’m not far off, as I’ve had the opportunity to play at the highest level in the NBA. Coming out here was special in a way because I could isolate myself from everybody, including my friends, and family. Although they are the most important people in my life, I’ve been able to focus on transforming myself, and my body to get into the kind of shape that I want to be in. I’m focusing on giving it my all, as well as hopefully signing an NBA contract this off-season.
For me it’s about taking my body, and my mind to a completely new level that I have never been before. That’s my focus, and that is my day-to-day. I get up early every morning to go to the gym for 9:30am, even though practice starts at 12pm. I do my conditioning, get in a lift before practice, and then after practice I do my core. It is a very short regime, and there isn’t too much to it. I have been trying my best to get out into the city, and explore a little bit, however, like I mentioned I am here for a reason, and that reason is to really transform my mind, my body and my game. This is a push for myself, and for my family. It’s about sacrificing that short term stuff, such as going to the club, to be able to take care of your family for the long term.
What was the experience of joining the New York Knicks for the 2017 NBA Summer League like, as well as the LA Lakers for the 2018 Summer League? What was going through your mind, and how did it feel?
Both experiences were really special! They were special because I had the opportunity to be around the two biggest franchises in the NBA, those being the New York Knicks, and The Los Angeles Lakers. Last year I had a really good summer league, and played well enough to get signed. However, because of the timing of Lebron James coming in, it did not work out. The NBA is all about timing, and being in the right place at the right moment. It was tough knowing that Lebron came there, and obviously Lebron is going to bring his best because he wants to win championships.
Regardless, I learned a lot! This summer, wherever I am at, hopefully I can get signed! As soon as I am done in Israel, I will be taking a week off to let my body relax, and then getting right back into training. Until summer league, I’m really just preparing myself, and taking my game to another level so I can prove that I am an NBA point guard.
Who do you seek inspiration from or look up to when it comes to basketball, and in strengthening yourself as a player?
I watch a lot of Damian Lillard. I feel like he’s been underrated his whole life, even in the NBA! He played at the highest level and still didn’t get picked for the All-Star game. He’s my favourite point-guard in the NBA, and I try to model a bit of my game after him. I like the way he approaches things, and just the way he is a person! I’ve gotten the chance to hear a lot about him, since I’ve played with one of his teammates, Gary Trent Jr. He seems like a great guy on and off the floor, obviously a special player on the floor. He is someone that I look up to, and want to be like.
What constraints have you faced throughout your journey?
I think the first thing that comes to mind is college. I was a drafted player out of high school for being the top 20 in the country. However, I got ruled as ineligible and therefore was unable to play, which was so tough for me because basketball was taken away from me. At that point I lost the one thing that I loved the most, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. That was a point in time where I had to rebuild myself, my mind and really push myself to another level. The second biggest setback I was faced with was being undrafted. I was told that I was probably going to make second round pick, and even then, I didn’t. However, after that day I went out every single night to prove that I should have been drafted, and that I was better than any of the other players that were chosen. What I realized is that it is all about your mindset, how you look at things, and how you approach things. This doesn’t just apply to the game but in all aspects of life. What you put in is what you’re going to get out, and I put my everything into this. I’m lock in, and like I said, I’m ready to get this thing done, and there isn’t anything that is going to stop me from getting to where I want! I am super resilient in what I do, and I have to be hard-headed at times to get to where I want to be!
How was balancing academics during your college career as well as focusing on developing a career to play for the NBA?
It’s always tough as a student athlete, since your time is demanded at such a high level! A lot of detail and time management goes into it. Practice is about three and a half to four hours long, and when you come home you’re tired. So it’s really about finding a balance, and ensuring that you are able to get the grades you need to stay eligible for playing. At the end of the day it’s about making sure that you don’t let anything take you off the court! That’s what my mom preached to me, that no matter what, you get things so you’re not taken off the court!
Do you feel anxious, or have doubts? Where you think, maybe I’m just not cut out for this? If you do, what do you tell yourself to get past those temporary feelings?
I like to say that I’m built for this. I’ve been through the doubt, I’ve been through the fire, I’ve been through the tough times, the times that have brought me to tears, and also through the times that brought the biggest smile on my face and my family’s. I don’t think there has been a point where I’ve said I’m not able to do this. With that being said, there have obviously been tough times, which comes with everything. Nothing good in life comes without having to go through hardships and difficult times, so I try my very best to embrace those moments, and enjoy them. What I remind myself is that moments like those will make me better in the long run, and shape me into who I become. So I embrace those hardships, and welcome them. It’s all about how you look at it a situation, how you approach it, and how you take it!
Have you experienced forms of criticism? If so, how do you deal with it and transform it into something positive?
I’ve learned that criticism is a great thing. When I was younger I was kind of opposed to it, but now I’m all for it. I like being coached hard, I liked being told where I need to get better, as it motivates me, and helps me become a better player as well as a better person. Criticism is a good thing, it allows you to see your mistakes, it allows you to grow, and it allows you to become better. Maybe when I was younger I would have said I don’t really like criticism but now it’s a part of what I do, it’s a part of becoming a pro, and it’s a part of advancing in my career, so I see it more positively. That’s how you got to look at it in order to keep moving forward.
What advice would you give to a young person who intends to embark on a journey of becoming a professional athlete? But just doesn’t know where to start?
Mine is simple, and it’s something that you hear a lot, which is work hard! People always say it out of cliche, however it’s definitely how I’ve been able to separate myself from others. It has been through the hard work, dedication and details that I put into what I do. I think that’s where it all starts. The foundation of doing well is the hard work you put in what you do, and ensuring that your preparation is at an elite level. Everything else comes after that. So to somebody who doesn’t really know where to start, I think your preparation, your dedication, and the hard work that you put into what you do is the biggest thing! Everyone wants to be special, they all want to have millions of dollars, to be able to take care of their families, to live in big houses, and drive nice cars but not everyone is willing to put in the work to get there! The work is a different story. It’s about waking up at 5am and grinding while everyone else is sleeping, or staying up late at night because you’re not content, and so you go to the gym and shoot for a couple of hours by yourself. It’s the moments where nobody is watching, those are the moments that make or break you. It’s the hard work, passion and dedication of what you do on a daily basis, which is going to get you through all the other stuff and propel you forward to where you want to be.
What does Home is Toronto mean to you?
Home is Toronto. Home is Everything. When you go back home, you feel comfortable, you feel secure, and you get a different kind of love that you don’t get anywhere else. Home is where everybody knows you, everybody understands you, everybody understands the struggles you’ve been through, and they appreciate you. Whenever I go somewhere, the first thing I say is, “I’m from Toronto”! Nothing else. Everybody knows where Toronto is, and I think we’ve done a great job of putting it on the map. Like I said, Toronto is everything to me, and it’s the place that made me who I am today, and it’s the place that is going to continue to make a lot of people. I’m proud to be from Toronto, and I definitely wear it on my sleeve every time I go out there. I got it tatted on me, as it’s important to represent my country and my city. The most special thing for me is being able to represent my city at a high level to the point that people recognize that Toronto has some really big talent!
How has the city shaped you into who you are today?
Scarborough is my city. Scarborough is what made me. We call it the Bermuda Triangle because guys can be crazy. Nothing is given to you there, instead, you have to earn it, and you have to earn everything that you say you are! It is a tough environment to be in but I found that it was great for me. The challenge gave me the chip on my shoulder that I have today, and it will stay with me no matter how good I am, or even if I become the best to ever come from my city. When I go back home I’ll always hear, “you’re not that good”! However, that kind of stuff is what made me, it has allowed me to have the attitude that I have, and the swagger that I step out with on the court to prove myself. It is that kind of stuff that pushes me to prove to my family, to prove to the guys in my hometown, and prove to myself that this what I do, and I’m the best at what I do. That is what has made me. Scarborough, alongside my mom and family, is what made me the person and the player I am today.
Who are your biggest inspirations from the city?
Drake is definitely one! This is because of what he has done. I’ve known his two best friends, Jordan and Nico, my whole life. I grew up around them as they used to go to the Y that I go to! Drake has been a huge inspiration for me because of what he has been able to do in his life, and through the craft of music. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world that doesn’t know Drake, and that is so special. People including, Tristan Thompson and Steve Nash are who I look up to as mentors. So I’m definitely humbled and thankful to have guys like that around, as they have paved the path for us.
What’s one thing that you think about the most when you’re overseas away from home?
Obviously family is one! With that said, there is also a plaza one street up from my house that has two of my favourite food spots. One is called Island and Spice, and the other is called Roti Hut. People from all over Toronto drive up to Scarborough to this one roti spot, and it is always jam packed. So whenever I am home, my grandma will always call me and ask if I want jerk chicken or roti for dinner that night. It’s interesting that when I think of home, the first thing that comes to mind is the food. The culture of food, and the culture of people. Toronto is so multicultural, with a blend of different people throughout the city. I think that is so special because you don’t see that often. No matter where you are in the world, there seems to be some separation, however, in Toronto you got a bit of everything. You got the faces that you didn’t even know were possible.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to, especially to hype you up before a basketball game?
I listen to Nipsey Hustle, and a little bit of Meek Mill. However, I like to listen to slow jams before my games. I don’t necessarily like to be super hyped and jumping all over the place before a game. The slow jams calm me down, and get me ready to focus on what waits ahead. If you see me play I’m really calm, cool and collected. If it’s not a slow jam, then I’ll be listening to guys like Drake, Meek and what not. It’s the best of both worlds.
What would you classify your personal fashion style as?
Since last year I’ve been getting more into fashion! I’ve been a big Nike guy, wearing tech fleece and what not. I didn’t really wear jeans, or dress up too much but Randy helped me change that! He helped me change up my style, especially when it came to appearances that I had to attend. I’ve shifted towards a different kind of style, where I put on a suit, or even go casual with nice kicks.