It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for San Diego State, but redshirt senior Xavier Thames has led the Aztecs to a 12-1 start. With his performances against Colorado State and Kansas, Thames has been named NetScouts Basketball’s National Player of the Week for games through January 5th.
Thames was the leading scorer in both victories, scoring 23 points (8-13 FG, 3-6 3FG) against Colorado State followed by another 16 points (5-16 FG, 2-4 3FG) in the biggest win of San Diego State’s season against Kansas.
“I think we can be pretty good,” Thames told the Associated Press after the Colorado State game. “I think we can win the league, as long as we do the little things, stay focused and cut down on our turnovers. We’ve got a really good team.”
The point guard from Sacramento, California has been one of the most underrated players in the country despite averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game. He’s deadly from mid-range and will also step out to hit the three at a 48 percent rate. Thames will need to expand his overall point guard skills for the next level, but there are no doubts about his scoring ability on the collegiate stage.
San Diego State’s win over Kansas has solidified the Aztecs as favorites in the Mountain West as their only loss came to the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats. Thames will be key in leading this squad throughout the rest of the season.
Elsewhere in the Mountain West Conference, New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow had a career night against Colorado State. The Australian has been named NetScouts Basketball’s International Player of the Week for games through January 5th.
The 6-foot-9 forward finished with 29 points (8-13 FG) and 14 rebounds in an 80-73 win over Colorado State. His scoring output matched his career-high while his 14 rebounds set a new career-high.
“I think he realizes he’s hard to cover,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said to the Associated Press. “That’s one thing that he’s done with his game. He’s expanded his game where he can put it on the floor and he can draw fouls.”
Although Bairstow hasn’t been a stretch four in the sense of shooting the three, he has been able to attack off the dribble and take advantage of bigger, slower defenders. He’s shooting 55 percent from the field and is scoring a team-high 20.8 points per game. The senior has also grabbed 7.7 rebounds per contest. Bairstow may not have the athletic ability to defend power forwards in the NBA, but he’s been able to compete at a high level against quality teams and defenses this year.
The Lobos haven’t been as successful as they’ve hoped early this season, but with Bairstow and a talented senior core leading the way, New Mexico certainly has the ability to win some games in March.
Cameron Schott is a Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball. Thanks to syracuse.com and zimbio.com for the photos.