Prep school basketball is a different world from the typical high school teams. Allowed to recruit and provide benefits like host housing, some prep schools have become collections of superstars from all over the world. Huntington Prep in West Virginia is one of those schools according to assistant coach Arkell Bruce.
"We're out on the road to every major AAU event looking at kids. And we know who to go after. We have a coach from Serbia, and we have a lot of European and African connections. Those kids are always looking to come over, and you have people calling you. Our first question is, 'Send us video.' We try to get our guys to college."
The talent at Huntington Prep is so impressive, Illinois recruited Ibby Djimde off its second unit last season. He is enjoying himself in Champaign-Urbana, which provides a connection the Illini need to recruit other players from there.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes transferred from North Carolina's Christian Faith program for this season, and he is drawing national college interest.
"Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Arizona, NC State, Florida State, a lot of other big schools," claims Rathan-Mayes.
Bruce sings the praises of his junior combo guard.
"He's a scorer, but he's more than that. He can really shoot the ball, but he's not just limited to that. If you take that away from him, he gets to the basket. He can play a little bit at the one when he's not focusing on just shooting the ball because he can pass the ball really well. He's really a complete player offensively."
Rathan-Mayes describes his game in a similar way.
"I'm a big combo guard, physical. I can get in the lane, and I like to create for my teammates. I feel I've got a lot of intangibles that can help the team."
Huntington Prep participated in the recent Tournament Of Champions Thanksgiving tourney in Washington, Illinois. The 6'-4", 200 pounder struggled from long distance in his Friday game, but he found other ways to contribute.
"I didn't have a good shooting night, but when we have guys like Elijah (Macon), Andrew (Wiggins) and Negus (Webster-Chan), everybody on our team can step up for you. That makes it a lot easier.
"I know that when my shot's not dropping, I've got guys who can go make shots. I'm not gonna have a great shooting night every night. So I try to get them the ball."
Shooters can become frustrated when their shot isn't dropping. Does that happen to him?
"Sometimes, but my coach allows me to keep shooting."
Rathan-Mayes knows areas he wants to improve.
"I always want to work on my strength, and be more explosive."
He has become somewhat of a world traveler in his brief high school career. One might assume he would have adjustment problems, but he seems to be adapting quickly.
"A little bit, but not too much now that I have about 7 guys from Canada with me including my cousin and brother. It's an easy transition. I'm from Toronto. My father Tharon Mayes is actually from the United States. He played basketball in the NBA."
There are persistent reports Illinois is a major player for his services despite heavy competition from top programs. A big reason for that is Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard.
"I love Coach Howard. Me and him have started to develop a great relationship. It was great to see him at the game today. I have great support from Coach (Bruce) Weber and the Illinois coaches. It's definitely a school I'm gonna look into when I decide to commit."
What does he want in a college?
"I want a great coaching staff, and I want to go in and make a big impact right away. A school that in four years is gonna get me where I want to be."
Rathan-Mayes expects to visit Illinois before he makes a college decision.
"I will most likely visit during my senior year or in the summer. I was actually gonna go on an unofficial to Illinois this week, but I was waiting on my mom. She couldn't make it, so I'm gonna wait until the summer when she can come down here with me."