By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Julius Mays didn’t get much rest in Kentucky’s first exhibition game of the season Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
Mays, a senior transfer guard from Wright State, was one of seven players who logged 40 minutes in the annual Blue-White game. Mays split time with both teams in the blue squad’s 89-88 triumph over the white unit. Mays scored 13 points in the opening half for the blue team, but didn’t score in the final 20 minutes as a member of the white team. Mays added five assists and collected two steals in the exhibition.
“Playing 40 minutes straight is tough, but for the most part, I played well,” he said. “When I wasn’t scoring, I felt like I was getting my teammates involved and getting it done on the defensive end, so I think overall, I played pretty well.”
The outing was the unofficial debut for Mays, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound guard who averaged 14.1 points per game last season and was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year. Prior to transferring to Wright State, Mays played two years at North Carolina State. His current team features four freshmen, leaving Mays as one of the veterans on the young squad. Mays used his leadership at times in the team’s first public appearance since Big Blue Madness.
“There were times out there, I needed to be vocal,” he said. “We had some guys out there who were a little sloppy with things and just making it feel like a pick-up game. I feel like I had to step up and take control.”
Despite the team’s youthful appearance, Mays is enjoying being a part of the program.
“It’s like playing with another brother that I never had,” he said. “From the moment I came in over the summer, they took me in and I took them in as well and it’s been a brotherhood since then. I feel like the relationship off the court translates into the relationship that we have on the court.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari likes the way Mays has embraced his new teammates. Mays met with Calipari Tuesday and expressed his excitement for being part of program.
“Yeah, he’s loving this,” Calipari said. “He just said every day he’s learning. He said this is the greatest experience. He appreciates it, and there is nothing (distracting him) he’s just playing and doing the things he knows he can do.”
Mays is simply soaking in the experience.
“I’m learning every day just like everybody else,” he said. “It’s a new system and I’ve never done anything like it. I’ve never ran this much and played in a system like this. It’s (a) learning (experience) for me, just like it is for the new guys as well.”
Calipari added that Mays has the same traits as former standout Darius Miller, who helped lead the Wildcats to the national title last season.
“He’ll make an open shot,” Calipari said. “He’s better with the ball. You’ll see him. He’ll push it really hard. He’s really strong, really heady. It’s just (that) Darius was bigger, but he brings the same kind of stuff.”
Mays has caught on so fast to the Cats’ scheme during preseason workouts that Calipari mentioned him as one of the team’s top two players following the scrimmage. Despite the fact that he is one of the team’s five starters, Mays isn’t taking the appointment lightly.
“There is really no starting five set in stone,” he said. “We haven’t played a real game yet and we’re still trying to figure a lot of things out. I’m just trying to find my niche. I want to just do whatever this team needs me to do, whether that be scoring, coming in to distribute the ball and create for others or come in and bring energy on the defensive end. I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Although the team is a young and inexperienced, Mays said the team’s physical toughness isn’t lacking and he can prove it.
“I can show you my arm,” he said. “I’m all scratched up and I am beat up. Every practice is physical. It’s all toughness and no softness.”