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By LARRY VAUGHT
When Julius Mays is making 3-point shots, it makes Kentucky a different team.
“It helps us a lot. It makes the defense be a little bit more honest and they can’t focus just on one of us,” said Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow. “If I have got Kyle (Wiltjer) on one wing and Julius on the other wing, they have got to play somebody and it is going to open it up for other people.”
Mays had missed 20 of 23 shots in his previous three games before going 3-for-7 from 3-point range in last week’s win over Eastern Michigan. He’s now 20-for-65 from 3-point range at UK this season after going 50-for-118 at Wright State last season before transferring to UK. Counting his two years at North Carolina State, he now has made 104 treys in his collegiate career.
“He always shoots well in practice and I know he has been putting in extra work, too, to get his shot back for the game and it showed,” Harrow said after the Eastern Michigan game.
Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t worry about Mays’ shooting.
“Even when Julius is missing shots, he doesn’t hurt your team. He just doesn’t make shots,” Calipari said. “So there is no like, not only is he not making the shot, he’s not guarding, he’s turning over. Julius never hurts us. He just maybe doesn’t help us as much as we want.”
Mays is averaging 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game going into Thursday night’s Southeastern Conference opener at Vanderbilt. He’s second on the team with 46 assists and has just 15 turnovers in 417 minutes of play.
Mays considers himself a “glue guy” that can do more than make shots.
“If I am not making shots, I am not a guy who is going to let up on defense. I don’t let not making shots impact the rest of my game as far as getting my teammates involved or being out there talking to them and making sure they are playing hard,” Mays said. “I don’t solely focus on just making shots. I would like to make every shot, but that’s not realistic.”
If he’s not making shots, he won’t quit shooting.
“I think there is such a thing as a slump, but the only way to come out of it is to keep shooting. It is kind of hard because a lot of shots you are taking you usually hit and they just don’t seem to drop and you go through a drought. It is frustrating,” Mays said. “The hardest thing about it is not letting it get to you and to start second guessing yourself. The main thing for a shooter is to keep shooting the ball.”
Mays can remember only one time losing confidence in his shot — and that was in high school when he let it “kind of get to me.” Since then he’s learned to not let missed shots impact him that much.
“I have been strong mentally to not let it get to me and I know I’ve got confidence in myself and my coaches and teammates don’t lose confidence in me. They get mad at me for not shooting enough whether I am hitting or missing. To have that kind of confidence in you, it’s hard to get down on yourself,” he said.
He doesn’t change his routine based on whether he’s making or missing shots. However, he did feel going into the Eastern Michigan game that he had been “shooting slower” than normal.
“I focused on getting it off a little quicker and I think I was successful. But as far as changing my routine, no. I think the main thing with a shooter is to keep the same routine the way I have shot my whole life. Just because I have a drought and I’m not hitting, I am not going to change things,” he said.
He doesn’t let outside influences from the media or even fans influence him, either.
“I am not a guy that pays attention to what any outsider says. The only people that I listen to are the people within this program — my coaches and my teammates. Besides that, I really don’t listen or care what anybody else has to say,” he said. “I know what I have to do. I put the time in in the gym and whether I am hitting or missing shots, I know I am working hard. If I go out there and do the same thing when I am working out, then if it goes in or doesn’t go in it is out of my control. I’ve done all I can do.”