A look at James Mays

NC Gator James Mays played to mix reviews in the Tournament of Champions this past weekend. StateFan's charted him for two games. We have the stats, shot charts, photos and more in this post TOC analysis of the Garner standout.

James Mays is part of a loaded roster for the North Carolina Gators. It's a roster that features JamesOn Curry (UNC commit), Cedric Simmons (NC State commit), Mack Montgomery (ECU, South Carolina et al) and Jason Thompson (Clemson, Wake Forest et al). Their bench is loaded with 11 other prospects as well. With all that talent, it begs the question, how do you keep all those players happy?

If you watched the Gators this past weekend, it was obvious the coaching staff was having a hard time getting the chemistry right. After all, a great player like Curry is coming off the bench for most games and the minutes by the rest of the team are limited due to the depth. In other words, it is hard to get a groove on if you play for the Gators.

Look at May's game for instance. On Friday night against Beach ball, with Cedric Simmons in foul trouble for the biggest part of the game, he wowed the crowd at the Smith Center with extra minutes. He showed a dribbling ability that would have made Marcus Melvin proud. Mays brought it up the court often. Once he got it across the time line, the real show began. James had some shake and bake moves that looked like they were coming from an athletic two guard rather than a combo forward. The results were two dunks and a deadly jump-stop shot for two.

Mays has "G"

Mays blocked shots, gave out assists, made some free throws and just gave Beach Ball match-up problems all night with his versatility. Mays just played the game faster than anyone on the court on Friday night.

On Saturday against the Tennessee Travelers, I saw a different version of Mays. Offensively, the ghosts of Reynolds were not pleased. He was 0 for 3 from short range and he missed his only jump shot. He finished with 1 point for the game.

Defensively, he still had game. He blocked two more shots had a steal and snatched 7 rebounds.

The difference? To me it was all about playing time. Mays had about 21-22 minutes against Beach Ball while I would be surprised if he logged in more than 12 minutes against the Travelers. All the talent on the Gators has to make it hard for any player to stay in a groove.

Look no further than JamesOn Curry for further proof of problems in Gator land. I watched him twice this weekend. No way was he the player he was last year… but then again, he was coming in as a reserve. Has he gotten worse or is he being denied a chance to gain his groove? I think the answer for sporadic play by both Curry and Mays is the lack of chemistry created by the plethora of talent the Gators have.

Depth can take away playing time and that's probably the best way to limit both Curry and Mays. One thing that cannot be refuted is that Curry is "big time" in every way according to most recruiting analysts. At 6'3", he can do it all as a combo guard.

Mays shows no groove

The same can be said for Mays. The only way you can remove his athletic ability is to keep him off the court. Even in doing so, he still managed to snatch 7 rebounds in 12 minutes of play against Tennessee, which says a lot. The kid has hops, size and he just plays the game so darn fast.

In evaluating Mays, it's probably best to look at his overall game which includes his play for Garner High School who made the state 4-A play-offs this past season. His averages for this past season were 22 points per game, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks and 4 assists. Those are some big numbers for any player on any team. They also show statistically proof of a certain versatility that Mays maintains.

The fact that most people see him as a future power forward makes him all the more intriguing as a prospect. Here's a 6'8" player who brings the ball up court and has the ability pass like small wing player. While his outside shot could (and probably should based on his TOC performance) be questioned, you have to wonder if it's not there in some way or soon to be developed. He is just too good of an athlete to not have some stroke in his game. If we didn't see it this past weekend, perhaps he had it last season at Garner. I certainly would like the have the time to chart him for an extended period of play in a normal setting.

A quick look at the NC All-State team gives us no help in evaluating James Mays. He was not selected by AP for the first or second team. Neither was Cedric Simmons, who some consider the top prospect in the class of 2004. Gator teammates JamesOn Curry and Jamal Shuler did make the team however. Seems the AP writers could once again be suspect in their selections.

Mays in post game interview

Regardless of the Gators or AP woes, Mays has the attention of NC State, Virginia, Maryland, UConn and others. That is a pretty strong group by any standards and gives us yet another hint as to James' present ability and future potential. He told a group of reporters on Saturday that Virginia, Virginia Tech and South Carolina (a little less impressive as a group) have all offered. He also inferred that NC State has offered, but he did not come right out and say that. We will have to keep an eye on exactly how things transpire between James and the Pack.

The jury may yet be out on Mays, because his upside has yet to be seen. At 6'8" 200 pounds, he is a tweener. He is plenty big to play the 3 but is a little light to be considered a full time 4. He can compensate for the lack of size with his athletic ability. He is a bouncer and he has the knack for getting inside and snatching rebounds before other big men have made their jump. If he can develop any kind of jump shot, say out to about 15 foot, you could be looking at a lanky "Thurl Bailey" type of athlete.

Dave Telep on Mays:

5-12-2003: He was flying around the court doing his thing again on Sunday. Clearly, he's had one of the best weekends here. Athletically, there are few 6-8 players in his class.

5-11-2003: One of the bounciest athletes in the country. He has an uncanny leaping ability around the basket. He gets in two jumps before defenders can land from their first one.

5-11-2003: "If there was a guy who played with more energy or got more done on Saturday we certainly didn't see him. Mays is tough when he's being athletic and rebounding and that's exactly the way he played as his team staved off the Squires. Mays was boarding and blocking shots as he impacted the contest. His ability to get off the ground quickly causes problems for teams athletically."

1-5-2003: The junior had a huge game as the Trojans captured 5th place in the regional tournament. He posted 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds (13 in the first half). He was active, energetic and passed the ball extremely well. He really sees the floor better than most forwards and he's a super athlete who finishes well.

1-4-2003: The Trojans rolled in a loser's bracket game behind Mays strong play. We didn't witness the game but the stat sheet gave him 21 points, 5 boards, 4 assists and 5 blocks.

1-3-2003: Really came out and was aggressive to start against Roanoke. He had two dunks off teammate's misses that were particularly impressive. Had a run in the game where he was hitting a string of medium-range jumpers.

12-11-2003: Mays finished with 18 points but 10 came in the final quarter when the game had been decided. The 6-8 Mays is a terrific athlete and he'll likely find himself to be the biggest man on the floor in most of Garner's games this season. That means for the Trojans to win, he's going to have to be a presence in the paint. To his credit, he's trying to expand his game and work on his perimeter skills, but Garner will need his body inside to win games.

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