University High (Baton Rouge) sophomore Skylar Mays, a Class of 2016 point guard, is quickly turning into one of the most prominent names in the new wave of bayou talent, joining the likes of teammate Wayde Sims and Riverside Academy's Malik Crowfield.
Mays, approaching 6-foot-3 and weighing 180 pounds, enjoyed a nice debut season at U-High in 2012-13, putting in 9.0 points per game and averaging 7.8 assists. In a recent interview, the "pure point guard" told TSD he's spent much of the offseason developing a more well-rounded offensive game to fit the needs of his prep team.
"I've been doing a lot of work in at the gym," Mays said. "I've been over at Sportsplex almost every day just trying to get my pull-up jumper right. I'm going to have to score a little bit more this year, so I've been putting in more work on my jumper."
Team Sportsplex, home of Nike Team Louisiana (also known as the "Red Storm") of the EYBL, is where Mays, Sims, Crowfield and much of the pelican state's premier talent trains these days and also where the youngsters ply their trade in the summer. This past summer Mays played in four Nike tournaments with the 16-under team (technically a grade/level up) and ran the point in three events with the 15-U squad, which won the AAU national championship.
The addition of such a basketball asset in the local community, according to Mays, has helped him flourish and grow his game.
"It's big. I actually live only five minutes from Sportsplex, so it's close to home," explained Mays. "That helps a lot. It's great, though. Guys are always there, willing to help you out. They've got equipment, and they've got a great staff to help you as far as improving your game."
In the season on the horizon, Mays, whose Cubs fell to eventual 2-A state champion Riverside Academy by two points in the state semifinals a season ago, says his team has to gel and stay focused on the defensive end of the floor. Monday marked U-High's first official practice of the preseason.
"We definitely have to be a defensive-minded team," Mays continued. "We've got so much talent on our team, and I'm the type of guy that's not really worried about scoring the ball. I'm worried about getting those guys the ball because I look to pass the ball first. That's just my thing. But we have to be rooted in defense and we've got to stick together. Everybody can't try to be individuals."
On the recruiting front, Mays' stock is starting to rise. He picked up his first and only offer from LSU over the summer, but Mays is beginning to hear from a few more programs on a regular basis, mostly the University of Houston.
The player indicated getting an offer from his home-state school was not only a humbling experience, but an unexpected one, too.
"I'm honored," Mays said of the offer. "When I got my offer at the LSU Team Camp, I didn't expect it all because it's not usual to get offers so early. I mean this is definitely a football state, so I didn't see that one coming. I'm honestly thankful for it.
"I think the program is headed in the right direction. I heard just earlier today [Monday] they picked up the number three player in the nation in the grade ahead of me (Ben Simmons). That's big. Johnny Jones is a great guy. I definitely feel comfortable around him. He's obviously a great recruiter, and it's obvious the LSU program is going in the right direction."
There's also a certain level of familiarity Mays possesses with sons of LSU basketball notables, considering he attends school with Sims (son of former Tiger Wayne Sims) and John Jones (son of LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones). Jones is a year younger than Mays while Sims, a longtime friend, is the same age.
"Me and Wayde go way back. I've been playing with Wayde since maybe six years old," explained Mays. "We go all the way back to when we used to play together at Sports Academy. John, I haven't known him for too long. Obviously he just got down here (last year), but he's a cool guy. We definitely get along."
As the pace picks up on his recruitment, Mays isn't overly concerned with distance or location, saying "it has to be about the best fit." He does have a few schools in mind he hopes to hear from eventually.
"Definitely the big schools – the Big Ten schools like Michigan, and then Louisville, of course," said Mays. "I really like Duke. I grew up watching Duke a lot and North Carolina and Texas, those kinds of schools, but I'm open to any school."
The process may be a new one for Mays, but he said his father has helped him feel at ease so far. "My dad's been telling me to stay humble about it, which is a big part of it. I'm trying not to get big-headed, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that. I just keep working, which is what you have to do. But my dad's been helpful in keeping me in the gym, working on my game."
With a pair of carrots – a state championship and a Peach Jam title – dangling in front of him, Mays, one of the state's best facilitators, assured that's about the only place you'll find him over the next 10 months.
Where do you think Mays lands?