Thames tries his best Kemba imitation

by Edward Lewis

SDSU transfer guard Xavier Thames prepared the team for UConn’s Kemba Walker this week in practice. File Photo
SDSU transfer guard Xavier Thames prepared the team for UConn’s Kemba Walker this week in practice. File Photo

One week he’s Colorado State’s Dorian Green. The next he’s TCU’s Hank Thorns Jr. After that, he’s BYU’s Jimmer Fredette.

He’s a new player every week and is San Diego State’s best chameleon.

He’s Xavier Thames, SDSU’s scout team leader.

“Usually, I’m the best player on the other team if they’re a guard,” Thames said.

Thames is a sophomore transfer from Washington State who’s redshirting this season. He’s a 6-foot-3-inch combo guard who compares his game to Jason Terry and Chauncey Billups.

This week, though, his name isn’t Chauncey, Jason, Jimmer, Hank, Dorian or Xavier.

It’s Kemba.

Thames was expecting it, but SDSU assistant coach Justin Hutson made it official earlier this week. He was going to be Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, and he was going to have the responsibility of preparing the Aztecs to face one of the best college basketball players in the country in their Sweet 16 matchup today with UConn.

“It’s a lot of pressure being Kemba,” Thames said. “You’ve got to get these guys ready. I try my best to get them prepared, but I’m not Kemba. He’s a great player. But I’m going to try my best to get them prepared.”

Thames has watched Walker all season. UConn was on ESPN’s family of networks 21 times and on national TV three other times this year. Thames caught plenty of those games. Plus, he watched film of Walker’s NCAA Tournament game against Cincinnati.

“I try to take some of his moves and try to bring it out here so guys know what’s coming on Thursday,” Thames said.

Thames said Walker comes off a lot of ball screens, uses a lot of crossovers, step backs, pump fakes and, in transition, he gets to the basket a lot.

One of his favorite Walker moves, though, was the UConn guard’s game-winning buzzer beater in the Big East Tournament.

“The jab step against Pittsburgh,” he said with a smile. “I was right there watching that. Crossover and step back.”

Thames prepared the Aztecs on Monday and Tuesday before the team officially took off for Anaheim. As a redshirt, he doesn’t travel with the team, so he wasn’t able to help in yesterday’s practice.

But during Monday’s two and a half hour practice, he was driving on sophomore guard Chase Tapley, was crossing over sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard and was shooting floaters over senior forward Billy White’s head.

“Xavier is a great player,” White said. “Coach Hutson puts him as Kemba because he can shoot the ball and he dribbles just like Jimmer Fredette and stuff like that. He helped us when we played against Jimmer Fredette too.”

With Washington State last season, Thames averaged 4.6 points per game and a little more than one assist and one rebound per game.

Walker averages 23.6 points per game, 4.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds.

“I’m going to try my best to resemble his game,” Thames said. “We’re two different players. He’s probably a better player, but hopefully I can get to his level one day.”