LAFAYETTE — As he prepares to play his final game in the Cajundome as a member of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, senior shooting guard Xavian Rimmer clings to the belief that he can still be the man to come through in the clutch when his team needs him most.
His senior season hasn’t gone according to plan. After coming off a brilliant performance in last season’s Sun Belt Conference tournament, Rimmer was named a preseason second-team all-league player, but that hasn’t translated on the court.
“It’s been a tough situation for Xavian, being a preseason second-team all league pick,” coach Bob Marlin said. “He started games early, he wasn’t defending very well. (He) was a little bit overweight. Trying to do too much.”
In 28 games this season, Rimmer has seen his minutes slashed nearly in half as he struggled to do what he did best a year ago in that tournaments — hit shots. Rimmer’s shooting percentage has dipped more than nine percent to 34 percent this season, and his playing time has suffered because of it.
He’s aware of his struggles, but he’s not focusing on them. Instead, Rimner keeps his eyes on the process so he’s ready when his name is called.
“I had a lot of goals coming in, but from that standpoint, it didn’t happen,” Rimmer said. “But I stayed the course, I’m staying the course now.”
Those goals were there, in large part, because of the show Rimmer put on in last season’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
He started the tournament with a bang, scoring a team-high 24 points in the Cajuns 91-85 win against UT-Arlington. Rimmer was highly efficient in that game, going 5-for-6 from deep and connecting on all seven of his free throw attempts. He sank four free throws in the final 12 seconds to defuse a furious UT-Arlington rally.
It was his turn to be the rally igniter in the tournament final against Georgia State. Down by 11 with 5:09 to go, Rimmer drilled a pair of 3-pointers in less than 90 seconds to jump-start a 17-6 Cajuns run to close out regulation.
He then connected on a pair of crucial free throws with 28 seconds remaining in overtime for the Cajuns final points in an 82-81 thriller that punched the Cajuns ticket to the NCAA tournament.
Rimmer scored 27 points in that tournament championship game, and he hit 12 shots from beyond the arc in the tournament.
“Everybody was concentrated on Elfrid Payton, and that opened up the doors for me and Bryant Mbamalu, getting open and making rhythm 3s, open 3s,” Rimmer said. “When the time came, I had to step up.”
With that time fast approaching this year, could it be his time to step up again?
Marlin thinks so, even with the knowledge that Rimmer hasn’t parlayed that stretch into the season he was expecting this year.
“Xavian stayed positive, he’s worked hard, he’s been a great leader and he’s had some really good practices,” Marlin said. “That’s how he kept himself at that level.
“And he’s ready. When his time comes, he’ll be ready.”
Rimmer said a large chunk of his family will be in attendance Thursday, when he and Brian Williams will be honored for their contributions to the program as the Cajuns only seniors.
“We feel like he’s going to have a great game on Thursday and kind of redeem himself a little bit,” Marlin said. “Get his confidence going into this last weekend.”
Perhaps it will be the start of the season Rimmer was supposed to have based on that preseason all-league selection. Marlin may want to get his confidence going, but it sounds like the confidence hasn’t left Rimmer despite his below-expectations senior year.
“Every time I shoot, I think it’s going in,” Rimmer said. “Coach believes in me, all the coaching staff believes in me. They think I’m going to make a big impact in this tournament, and I think I will too. I think I’m ready for it.”