From the outset, Luke Maye never was going to be a prospect who garnered overflowing national attention. Lacking the measurables and eye-catching athleticism to grab immediate notice, he worked his way up the charts through production and consistency.
Both in the path he traveled as well as his style, then, Maye stands as an old fashioned athlete who has fashioned a highly impressive prep career through underappreciated ability and determination.
As a sophomore at Charlotte (N.C.) Hough, Maye averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game at the 4A (large school) level. He outplayed UNC signee — and current sophomore — Kennedy Meeks head to head and ousted the McDonald’s All-American from the playoffs.
From there, Maye hit the road with Team United on the EYBL circuit. He established himself as an elite rebounder during the 2013 spring and summer and returned to Hough having placed himself on the national map.
Still, his recruitment mostly operated at the upper mid-major and lower high-major level. He’d drawn offers initially from Charlotte, Davidson, Charleston and Richmond to accompany interest from many ACC programs.
Maye essentially replicated his production during his junior season, averaging 19 points and 15 boards per contest. He proved successful once again on the 2014 EYBL circuit as well as at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp this past June.
Reported offers came in from Virginia, Notre Dame, Clemson, Tennessee and Gonzaga. Ultimately, though, there were three local schools under consideration in the final weeks of his recruitment: UNC, Clemson Davidson. He committed to the Tar Heels in time for the fall signing period and will be the second straight member of his family — father Mark played quarterback — to be a Tar Heel athlete.
To best compliment Maye and describe his game, one need only point to the stat sheet. He isn’t one of these guys who competes in spots or shows flashes; he consistently produces for his team irrespective of setting or score.
On the EYBL circuit this year, he averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game in 16 contests for a club that couldn’t provide him a lot of help. He shot a respectable 46 percent from the field, including 36 percent on threes. Many players with greater reputations failed to achieve those kinds of numbers on the EYBL.
Deconstructing his game into components, Maye possesses an exquisite set of hands. He corrals nearly everything in his vicinity, as those hands are not only coordinated but very strong. He frequently rips down rebounds in traffic and can make difficult receptions at full speed with his left hand. It’s his hands that largely explain why he’s such an effective rebounder.
|Maye never lacks for energy and aggression|
Meanwhile, he ranks among the very best outlet passers in high school basketball. Maye yanks down rebounds and turns immediately into a outlet pass that he can whip on a line past halfcourt. Thinking about UNC’s fullcourt offense, that’s an area that should earn him credit with the coaching staff.
As the numbers suggest, Maye also is a capable jump shooter. He’s comfortable from the middle areas and clearly possesses three-point range, provided he takes only open attempts and doesn’t attempt to shoot off the dribble. He isn’t the kind of player who projects to be a featured long-range marksman in the halfcourt, but rather he should be effective as a trailing shooter who specializes in open shots taken in rhythm.
In addition to his outlet passing, Maye is an excellent passer from the high post and on the interior. His court awareness generally is outstanding, enabling him to trim wasted motion from his efforts and work very efficiently within the offense.
He also has made big strides as a post scorer. Maye wields an improved jump hook with either hand and finishes off the glass, which could be critical to his efforts versus ACC competition.
And none of this so far has mentioned his intelligence and work ethic, which are unassailably fantastic and always have been a model for his teammates. He competes with a rugged, tireless, attuned style that raises everyone’s level and will endear him to his future coaches.
It’s all about the tangibles. At 6-7, Maye is a little short for the post, significantly under-athletic and vastly behind in terms of length.
Being any one of those things is okay, and plenty of effective power forwards lack two of the three, but when that entire trio of qualities looms as a concern, legitimate questions arise. Someone reading the Assets section might wonder how Maye could possibly not be ranked in the top 100, and there’s your answer.
He has been measured to have a 6-6 wingspan. For perspective, that’s down 6-to-8 inches from many high-major big men. Given his lack of straight-up leaping ability, will he be able to score against major conference opponents?
More troubling could be his defense, for the same reasons. He doesn’t possess great lateral quickness to defend wings, and certain opposition will simply be able to turn and shoot over him.
He’ll also need to raise his 66 percent free throw shooting from the travel circuit.
Factoring in his all-around talent and limitations, Maye certainly projects as a rotation player during his time in Chapel Hill. He may not play a tremendous amount early — depending upon who leaves for the NBA following this season as well as any other 2015 big men signed — but should blossom into a steady, quick learning, tough guy during his four years on campus.
The Tar Heels primarily sign blue-chip talent and are suiting up three McDonald’s All-American freshmen this season alone, so no one should overhype Maye as someone who’s likely to supplant their current or future incoming stars.
But given the wildly variant nature of college basketball in the early entry era, and given the present tumult at UNC, a gifted, dedicated and low-maintenance big man with the talent to contribute gives the program a boost and addresses frontcourt depth concerns for 2015-16 and beyond.