By: LARRY VAUGHT
Julius Mays knew plenty about Kentucky basketball before he transferred to UK this year. However, one thing about playing for John Calipari — even in the offseason — surprised him a bit.
“It is no walk in the park here. Every day is very tough whether it is conditioning or a workout with coaches. Everything is very hard,” said Mays.
“It doesn’t surprise me totally that is so hard. You look at since coach Cal has got here and you don’t get great success just going through the motion and taking days off and just working when you want to. Obviously, you have to come every day and give the effort even when you are tired or beat up or the day after a game. You have to give that 110 percent every day. But it is so much tougher every day than most people can probably imagine.”
Mays, a shooting guard, played two years before transferring to Wright State, sitting out one season and playing last year before coming to UK as a graduate student transfer so he would be eligible to play this season.
He says Kentucky’s one-hour offseason workouts “were so intense” that he can only imagine how intense real practices will be this season.
“The harder the better for me. This what I was looking for, but it has turned out to be even more. I wanted to be pushed. I said when I transferred that I wanted to bring the best out of Julius Mays and I felt coming here has done that and will only keep going up,” Mays said.
He has played in more games than any other UK player and even though this is his first year at UK, he believes he can be a team leader even if Calipari says he is not “real vocal” most of the time.
“I think it is maybe me learning the ropes a little faster than the younger guys will. Just being vocal. Maybe even leading by example since I have been in situations some guys have not been in. I want to just be a vocal leader and be there for them when they get in tough situations,” he said.
Can he get on high-profile, five-star recruits?
“Definitely, but I feel we all have that family bond that we know when we get on each other it is not anything personal or taking a shot at each other but only to better ourselves,” Mays said. “We all have been on each other already, but we all know it is not personal. As soon as it is all over we are all laughing and joking.”
Mays said it was obvious how close last year’s national championship team was.
“Everybody has come in this year and is tight. We have to come together and be close and learn a lot about each other,” Mays said. “With us all living together and being around each other and spending as much time as we do every day, it is kind of hard not to become a family. I am excited just to be here. Getting to play is going to be very exciting.”
Mays is a prolific 3-point shooter and believes he handles the ball well enough to play point guard if needed. He also knows most UK fans probably know little about his overall ability.
“I didn’t have a great showing ... well, I had some good showings at N.C. State. Obviously I played at a mid-major level last year and I didn’t have the five-star recruiting coming out of high school. People are going to think what they want to think but I am not playing the game to please those people. I am playing the game to do what I have to do to help my team win,” Mays said.
“I will end up playing both guard spots. I have always been a combo guard and played both spots. Once we start playing, whether my role is to come in and knock shots down or distribute the ball, I am willing to do whatever my team needs me to do. “It doesn’t matter to me about my role. I felt like when I came that I have felt every way you can in college basketball. I was the man, I wasn’t the man. Now I am not the man again, but I don’t mind it. It is not about me. It is not an I show. It is a team game and it takes more than just me to win the game. I am just excited to be part of something good.”
Mays isn’t worried about the talk of a possible 0-2 UK start because the Wildcats face Maryland and Duke in neutral site games to begin the season.
“We have a young team. We might not start the season playing as well as we want, but I think coach Cal is saying we might go 0-2 to humble us a bit,” Mays said. “It’s more to keep our minds off what last year’s team did and to know that nothing is going to be handed to us this year. The team did win last year, so we will be everybody’s best game this year.
“But we know what is expected here. It is well known that if you are not producing, you are not going to be on the court. It’s either play how he (Calipari) wants you to play and play at a high level or don’t play at all.”