Former Cougar Thames returns as Aztecs star
Xavier Thames left eastern Washington as the odd man out at point guard for the Washington State men’s basketball team. He returns as a senior and All-America candidate for a program the Cougars can only dream of emulating.
Thames is the starting point guard for San Diego State, a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Aztecs – who take on 13th-seeded New Mexico State Thursday evening at the Spokane Arena – were ranked as high as No. 5 in the country this season and have reached the Big Dance every year Thames has been a member of the team.
After the 2009-10 season, he left WSU – which recently fired coach Ken Bone after finishing 3-15 in the Pac-12 – for “basketball reasons” likely due to the emergence of fellow freshman Reggie Moore at starting point guard. Moore was dismissed from the team prior to his senior season for violating team rules after previous off-the-court issues.
“I didn’t know until this morning,” Thames said about the dismissal of the coach he signed with out of high school. “My coaches told me but that’s sad for him. I wish him the best in whatever the future holds for him.”
Thames sat out a season per NCAA transfer rules, meaning the senior likely would have already graduated had he stayed a Cougar. This season he has blossomed in San Diego. He was the Mountain West Player of the Year, a member of the league’s All-Defense team and led the Aztecs with 16.8 points per game.
In his last three games he has collected 16 assists and turned the ball over just three times. Thames is a finalist for numerous postseason awards.
“I been doing the same thing,” Thames said. ”I was hurt the past two years, but I’ve been working on my game each and every day and just going hard. So, just staying in the gym all the time.”
Though Thames’ former teammates have graduated from WSU, the group still stays in touch. Along with Thames, guard Anthony Brown also transferred from WSU that offseason. Thames says he “misses” the Pacific Northwest, even the weather, but is understandably happy with his decision to leave.
“I had a lot of great memories of being here at Washington State,” Thames said. “Brock (Motum), Reggie, Anthony, all of those guys. So it was pretty difficult, but I had to make a decision that was best for me.”