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Men’s Basketball: Rimmer delivering early on for Cajuns

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, December 3, 2013

UL guard Xavian Rimmer (3) dribbles the ball past half court during a recent win over Northwestern State in which he scored 20 points. / Paul Kieu/The Advertiser

When he first arrived at UL from Mississippi’s Pearl River Community College earlier this year, having played NCAA Division I ball the prior season at Alcorn State, Xavian Rimmer knew he’d have to grow accustomed to some things before he felt fully comfortable in Lafayette.

He was joining, after all, his fourth club in four years, including one that won a Mississippi state championship at Piney Woods High in Jackson, Miss.

Baskets at the Cajundome were among them.

So was the style of coach Bob Marlin’s Ragin’ Cajuns basketball team.

“I had to get used to the system first,” said Rimmer, the SWAC’s College Madness Freshman of the Year after averaging 8.8 points and shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range at Alcorn State in 2011-12.

“Once I got used to the system – how Coach Marlin wanted to play – and I knew how to play it, it rolled over from there.”

It’s really rolling now.

Rimmer played double-digit minutes but went scoreless in UL’s first two games.

He didn’t produce more than six points in any of the next three, instead deferring to returning scoring leaders Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long and taking some time to feel his way around a new team.

After five games, he was averaging just 2.6 points.

Then, thanks to bugs in his ear from both Marlin and Payton, the light went on.

The green light, that is.

Rimmer is averaging 20.5 points and 30.5 minutes and is 11-of-16 from 3-point range in UL’s last two games, victories last Wednesday night over Northwestern State and the prior Sunday at Coastal Carolina.

The reserve shooting guard takes a 7.7 ppg average – and more importantly a boatload of newfound self-assuredness – into tonight’s visit to 6-1 Louisiana Tech, which puts its six-game win streak on the line against a three-game streak owned by the 5-2 Cajuns.

“He can shoot the basketball,” Marlin said. “We encouraged him to shoot early, and he’s so unselfish that he turns down shots.

“We’ve asked him to be more aggressive,” the Cajun coach added. “He’s so unselfish that it’s almost to a fault.”

Marlin was the first to say something.

It happened after UL’s first loss of the season, on the road at Arkansas on Nov. 15.

Rimmer had four points and was 2-of-5 from the field there, but he was 0-for-3 on his first three trey tries as a Cajun and evidently was nearly as assertive in Fayetteville as he needed to be.

But it wasn’t the only time that the point would be made.

It happened again after the next night, when Rimmer finished with three points – making 1-of-3 from behind the long-distance line – in a loss at Baylor.

“I’ve told him since the Arkansas game he needs to look to score,” Marlin said. “I told him after the Baylor game, ‘You need to look to score.’ ”

It might not have been until Payton said something, though, that Rimmer decided he both could and should.

The junior point spent part of last summer winning a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Championship tournament in the Czech Republic, and hearing it from the veteran team leader seemed to make it okay for the new guy to run with his coach’s command.

“I got a lot of confidence from talking to (Payton),” said Rimmer, who averaged averaging 11.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season at Pearl River in Hattiesburg. “He just said I just need to shoot more, and make sure I knock down shots.”

Rimmer did just that in a 73-69 win at Coastal Carolina, hitting 7-of-11 – including 6-of-9 from 3-point range – and finishing with a team-high 21 points.

He showed it was no fluke three nights later, coming off the bench to make 6-of-9 – including 5-of-7 on 3s – and finish with 20 points against Northwestern State at the Cajundome.

And he’s now shooting 52.6 percent (13-of-24) from 3-point range, which ranks second-best in the Sun Belt Conference.

“He took it upon himself. And I told him, ‘Shoot the ball with confidence,’ ” Payton said. “Coastal really sat in the lane the whole time trying to keep me out of the paint, and it helped get us a lot of open shots, and Xavian did a good job knocking ’em down.”

“He felt it at (Coastal Carolina), and was shooting the ball with confidence,” Marlin added. “When he does that, he’s very good.”

Not just at shooting from the outside, though.

Marlin calls Rimmer “a winner” he would not hesitate to start.

He calls him “an excellent passer” who “does a good job attacking the interior of a zone defense and getting the ball inside.”

He dubs him a strong defender too, particularly in practices.

But what Marlin especially likes is that Rimmer also can get inside and be a bona scoring threat from both the paint and the perimeter for the Cajuns – one quite-needed with senior shooting guard Bryant Mbamalu, last season’s No. 3 scorer, still out with a foot fracture sustained in the preseason.

“He’s strong,” Marlin said of the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder with calves the size of cows. “He’s big, and he can get bumped and still finish.”

He can, especially now that he knows how so many with the Cajuns – coaches and teammates alike – want him to do just that.

________________________

RAGIN’ CAJUNS BASKETBALL

WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Thomas Assembly Center (8,000), Ruston.

RECORDS: UL 5-2, La. Tech 6-1.

TV: None
RADIO: 107.9 FM and 1420 AM with Jay Walker

LEADING SCORERS: UL – Sophomore F/C Shawn Long (20.6 points per game); Louisiana Tech – Junior G Raheem Appleby (16.0 ppg)
THE CAJUNS: UL has won three straight, including a 105-74 win last Wednesday night over Northwestern State of the Southland Conference. … Along with Shawn Long, PG Elfrid Payton (20.3) also averages 20-plus points. … The Cajuns have won three straight since beating UL Monroe, Denver and Troy in late January and early February of 2011. …
UL has not beaten Louisiana Tech since a 65-60 home victory on Dec. 2, 2006 – three meetings ago.

THE OPPONENT: After losing its season opener 83-70 at Saint Mary’s, Louisiana State has reeled off six straight wins – the last two over St. Bonaventure and at Jackson State. … The Bulldogs are 12th in the nation in scoring at 88.6 points per game. … Louisiana Tech went to the postseason last season, beating Florida State and losing to Southern Mississippi in the NIT. … Louisiana Tech leads the all-time series 68-56, but the two teams haven’t met since 2008.