When you are the No. 5 team in the country and have a 20-game winning streak, people will eventually notice you. This is true for the San Diego State Aztecs men's basketball team. For most people, the recognition started with the January 5 road win over Kansas broadcast on CBS. Then came the No. 25 ranking in the AP Top 25. Now people are looking at the player who makes the Aztecs go: Xavier Thames.
A fifth-year senior and transfer from Washington State, Thames is in his third year as an Aztecs player and his first year to really take over this team. In the past two seasons, Thames suffered through injuries and deferred to Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin to put up points and take the big shots. This season, viewed by many as a transition year between Tapley and Franklin leaving and a top recruiting class coming in, has" X-ceeded" expectations. Out of the shadows, Thames has emerged healthy, confident and the leading scorer of one of the best teams in the country.
There were inklings in November when the Aztecs knocked off two ranked teams to capture the Wooden Legacy tournament. Thames was named the most outstanding player of the tournament. He averaged 22 points in the three games, scoring 29 in the championship game over Marquette.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports thinks that Thames is a National Player of the Year candidate and has him at #5 on this top 10 list released February 6. Thames is also on the 2014 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List.
Earlier today, Thames won his third Mountain West Player of the Week honor. He is the only Mountain West player to receive this recognition three times this season. In the two wins over Boise State and Nevada, Thames averaged 20 points, three rebounds and three assists. He shot 64% from the field and 90% from the free throw line.
Thames is quick to give credit to God and his teammates for his success. "Without my team I wouldn't be getting this recognition. My role is just whatever coach wants me to do. I'll do it. I'm a team guy."
If you haven't heard of him or seen him play, it's time to take a look at one of the best out West and in all of college basketball.