A Familiar Narrative: Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Florida State Snagged By Academic Issues

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 27th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Academic eligibility issues among high-level college basketball recruits are not a novel development. They are varied and wide-raging, stretching across the national prep landscape, from Dallas to New Hampshire to  and everywhere in between. Players leaving so-called “diploma mills,” schools devised to graduate high-level prospects by any means necessary to meet minimum eligibility requirements at the next level, often see their transitions to Division I interrupted once the NCAA looks into their shoddy academic credentials. Top 10 Florida signee Chris Walker is a recent high-profile example. Ben McLemore is another famous case. The accounts of academic negligence in high school coming back to bite players in college – whether by partial qualifier rulings or outright ineligibility – are too numerous to document in one post. Monday brought news of another highly-ranked recruit losing his college eligibility after not receiving academic clearance from the NCAA: Florida State recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the No. 7-ranked shooting guard and No. 30-ranked player in the 2014 class, according to Rivals. Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton broke the news Monday afternoon.

Losing Rathan-Mayes is a huge blow for FSU (Getty Images).

“Following a review by the NCAA Eligibility Center, it was determined that some of the coursework Xavier completed during his high school enrollment could not be used to satisfy NCAA Division I initial-eligibility requirements,” the school released in a statement. “The NCAA has allowed Xavier to enroll immediately at Florida State and receive athletics scholarship. However, he will not be permitted to practice or compete during the first year of enrollment.” 

According to various reports, Rathan-Mayes’ eligibility is the product of inadmissable course work completed while attending the Christian Faith Center Academy in North Carolina, a classic “diploma mill” run by infamous Toronto-area AAU coach Ro Russell. The story of Russell is sad and convoluted and entirely dismaying, and it offers a window into the sinister backstage work happening at like-minded schools across the country to accelerate top high school players’ paths to graduation. All too often, those avenues lead players away from the ultimate dream of making a living in professional basketball, their careers undercut by nefarious go-betweens, agents and other financially-motivated individuals looking to nestle their way into players’ inner circles. The underbelly of top-level college hoops recruiting is much less flattering than the high school game tapes, McDonald’s All-American games and scouting reports that make fans salivate before their team’s best recruits ever reach campus. It is a sordid system exacerbated by anachronistic amateurism guidelines and a mis-purposed NBA age limit; Rathan-Mayes is merely the latest casualty.

For Florida State, an already glum 2013-14 outlook just became even more discouraging. The Seminoles bring back all-ACC-caliber big man Okaro White, but will have only four guards eligible this season. Rathan-Mayes was expected to play big minutes at point guard, if not start right away. Now FSU, after losing Michael Snaer in the offseason (and whiffing on super-recruit Andrew Wiggins) will need to lean on seniors Terrance Shannon and Ian Miller, as well as sophomore Montay Brandon. The Seminoles would have had a hard time pushing for an NCAA Tournament berth and top-half ACC finish with Rathan-Mayes in the lineup; without him, taking into account the new teams entering the league, the Seminoles will fight just to stay clear of the bottom of the league standings. Unless Hamilton’s team miraculously recaptures the smothering defensive intensity it has played going back to 2009, including ranking tops in the country in points per possession allowed in 2009-10 and 2011-12 – a trait that eluded the Seminoles last season, when they ranked 165th in defensive efficiency – this is going to be another rough season for FSU. It’s disappointing, because Rathan-Mayes is a remarkable talent. Hopefully he can recover from this unfavorable ruling and move on to a successful college (and/or professional) career.

Chris Johnson (290 Posts)

My name is Chris Johnson and I'm a national columnist here at RTC, the co-founder of Northwestern sports site Insidenu.com and a freelance contributor to SI.com.

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