Interview with Sean May

BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- <i>Inside Carolina</i>'s David Thompson conducted the following in-depth interview with signed Tar Heel Sean May.

Inside Carolina: Sean, you had an exciting summer. How did you feel about your AAU play?

Sean May: Going into the summer I was kind of nervous, knowing that I would have to probably make a decision, but once it got started I felt, by the time Orlando came, I was playing my best basketball I'd played yet. And I was getting in better shape and I was shooting the ball really well and I just felt I had, probably, the best summer I've ever had.

IC: What was the highlight of the summer for you?

May: We played the Raleigh Heat in the Peach Jam. That was my breakout game—the best game I had all summer (IC game story). But Peach Jam was a really good tournament for me.

At Nationals I didn't play all that bad, but I was kind of off and on. But Peach Jam was the best.

IC: You were hobbled some this summer with sprained ankles?

May: Yes. I sprained both my ankles right before Nike camp and then I got a real bad thigh bruise at Nike camp and that bothered me for the rest of the summer. But you're going to get injuries when you play, so…

IC: What position do you see yourself playing in college? What's Coach Doherty been talking to you about?

May: He was telling me next year I'll probably play a lot of 4, the power forward spot. And if they get another big man, which they need, then that will be good. I don't mind playing some center. I'm kind of undersized, though. But strength-wise, I think I can handle it, but I'm just a little undersized for the center position.

IC: Carolina is obviously having a difficult season. Have you had any second thoughts at all?

May: No, I mean this season that's happening right now has nothing to do with me. I can look out there and tell we're going to be pretty good in the next couple of years. Right now they're young and they're just making some mistakes but I think they will pull it together.

And, as all teams do, they have a couple of years where they have a bad program where it's not going the way they want it to, so I've had no second thoughts. I'm happy with the decision I made. I think it's the best decision for me.

IC: When you look at Carolina this year, you mentioned a pressing need with the big man. Do you see other things that you're going to bring to the team? How are you going to be part of that solution?

May: I think that I have good court awareness. Coach can trust me with the ball. I don't get nervous. I'm unselfish. Right now I think the problem is some of the guys are too timid and they're worried about making mistakes instead of just playing.

And I think I bring to the table a big man who can score, pass—I can rebound. The only thing for me I feel I need to work on is my conditioning. And that's what I think I bring to the table.

IC: If I'm seeing you for the first time, what are the outstanding things I'll notice first?

May: That I'm an unselfish player. That I have great court awareness—I'm always going to find the open guy. I think that, people that watch me, they know I can shoot, they know I can post well.

I lack defensive quickness. My defense needs to get better but, when they see me, they know that they're going to get a good big man who can pass, dribble, shoot the three, go to the hole.

IC: Of those qualities, what would you say your greatest strength is?

May: Probably the fact that I can step out and hit the three consistently. My best strength is that I can take big men away from the basket.

IC: What would you like to improve on right now at this point in your development?

May: Just my overall quickness and conditioning. I need to get in better shape and, with all that, I'm still growing a little bit and I'll get in better shape and my defensive quickness will be able to stay with other big men.

IC: You've talked about the 5; you've talked about stepping out and shooting the three. What's your favorite spot?

May: Probably the 4. I feel real comfortable playing the 4 and I think, at a later in my career, I might have to play the 3 if I don't get any bigger, but right now I think the 4 is my best position.

IC: Describe your mindset during a game—at game time.

May: You know, you walk out on the court knowing that you're the best player out there. Even if you're not, you have to go out there with that mentality, that no one's going to stop you. You just go out there and play your hardest and when you walk off the floor, you ask yourself, "Did I give everything tonight?" And, most of the times, that answer is yes. There've been times when it's "no," but that's the mentality I have on the court everyday.

IC: Tell me about your defense.

May: Right now, I think, laterally, I don't move that well. I think, off the ball I play good defense. I see the court, I talk, I help. But my big thing is, laterally, I don't move well.

I wear size 20s and it's kind of hard to move those big boys around, but for the most part, I think I do play pretty good defense. I have pretty good position, it's just that I don't move that well.

IC: I notice you've got the number "42" on your shoes. Can you tell me about that?

May: That's just to remind me how hard my Dad worked and all the things he's taught me and without him, I wouldn't be here today. Just a reminder, you know, he's the reason I play basketball. He's the reason why I'm so talented right now. With hard work and him showing me everything that I know, I just remind myself.

IC: Your Dad said "the king has been taken off his throne." He said you had beaten him for the first time this past summer. Tell us about that.

May: It was, one day we went and played and it was that day I'd told him I was going to go to North Carolina. It was two weeks before I made my decision and we went and played and I had a lot of adrenaline and I ended up beating him 15-2 and then the next game I beat him 15-4. I felt good. I hadn't beaten him before and, just to beat him and him not to be able to say anything to me for about two weeks, it just felt great.

IC: Will you play your Dad again?

May: (smiling) No, I think he's a little too old. I don't think he wants any more of me, but, I'm sure he'd be up for the challenge.

IC: You're working with a personal trainer. How's that going?

May: He's a personal strength coach; his name is Doug Harney and he's been great. Ever since the beginning of the season I've dropped 15 pounds. I can feel myself getting a lot stronger. Normally, I stayed in our weight room and worked out but he's just been great. I'm glad I went with him.

IC: What is your workout like?

May: During the season, during the week, we do a lot of flexibility with medicine balls. We do a lot of workouts like that, just to keep our tone, keep our shape. Off-season, it's hard—it's quick. We do an hour workout but, when you go home, you just want to go to sleep. It's a strenuous workout.

IC: There's a lot of styles of play. What style of play are you best suited for, the run and jump game or the half-court set offense?

May: I think I'm best suited for a mix, because I think in open court, I'm good in the open court, I make good decisions. In a half-court set, I can really pick my spots. I can really beat a defender. I think too much of a run and gun kind of hurts me because I don't move as well as most big men who weigh 225. You know, I'm a big guy. I think Carolina, just looking at the games and the way Carolina plays, fits me best. And that's why I chose them.

IC: What does Coach Doherty say to you about the type of game he's moving toward?

May: He just told me they're trying to stick with what's worked in the past. Just trying to use everything they've used in the past. That's what I saw on the tape that they showed me and that's what I want to use.

IC: Coach Doherty was at the game last night [12/14]. Were you surprised?

May: Yeah. Coach Doherty called me about 3 p.m. yesterday. He told me he was coming down and I thought he was coming down for today's game [12/15], but he called me and said, "I'm hopping on a private plane and I'll be down there." And I was like, "All right, cool." It was exciting.

IC: Tell me what your shooting range is like.

May: You know, I think I can step out and hit 20 – 25 feet consistently. That's what I've been working on and my Dad and I, we go shoot everyday at the Y. That's what I feel is the biggest threat in my game.

IC: What specific skills has your Dad taught you?

May: When someone is watching me, they just know like on offense I always score, I have great position and my Dad's always taught me, just because you're not as quick doesn't mean you're not smart. That's the thing he's taught me the most—that I can really beat somebody just being smarter than them.

You know, we do a lot of drills, little ball-handling stuff and rebounding. But position and just trying to be smarter than the other players that you're guarding.

IC: How are you doing in the classroom?

May: Right now, I'm doing OK. I think I have a 2.9 right now, so I'm doing pretty good. Kind of getting "senioritis" a little bit but you just have to stick it out.

IC: "Game time." How does Sean May show leadership?

May: You always want to show leadership by example. You don't always want to talk, you just want to do it by example. When game time comes, I make sure everybody's serious. We're not joking around in the locker room. No matter who we're playing, we're going out to get a win and we're going out to beat them bad so they know they've played the Cougars tonight. And I think that's the way they are at Carolina. These guys are serious.

IC: Carolina and Indiana… What were you looking for in schools as you were being recruited?

May: Basketball-wise, I was fine with both schools. It would've been comfortable for me to have stayed at home, but it probably wasn't the best decision for me.

And when I went to Carolina, right before I got on the plane, my Dad was like, "If you want to go to Carolina, you'll know. I won't even have to ask you."

And I got up there and, just being with Rashad and Melvin and Jackie, and just all the guys, they were all great. We didn't really do anything special. We just hung out and just had a good time and I just knew that was the right place for me.

And as soon as I got home I was like, "You're right, Dad, I want to go to Carolina and I just knew it was the right place for me."

IC: Do you have a particular area of study you're considering?

May: Right now I'm still thinking through that. I really don't know yet.

IC: How important is immediate playing time to you?

May: Oh, every freshman wants to come in and play right away. I think, with Kris Lang leaving and Brian Bersticker, it just leaves a big gap, wide open. They don't have any other big men right now, I don't see, that are more talented than I am.

But I think in the future, they'll get some other good big men and then playing time will be a question but now, just going in as a freshman it'd be great to just go right in and play.

IC: You've heard from some sources that Neil Fingleton may be leaving. Does that affect your thinking at all as you head to North Carolina?

May: No. Neil, in reality he's a freshman because he sat out. He was a redshirt last year. The guy is 7-5; right now he's got some things he needs to work on but I think he could be a pretty good player. He could be a real good help for Carolina. But if he feels that he needs to transfer, that's his decision. It doesn't affect me in any way.

IC: When did you get your first recruiting letter and from whom?

May: I think I was a sophomore or a junior. I got it from Xavier. I don't remember…

IC: What about the Carolina campus? It's atmosphere, the town…

May: It was great. I walked through campus in ten minutes. At first I thought it was bigger than what it was. The campus isn't really all that big and we went to the dorms and chilled with the guys and it was just great. The atmosphere was perfect. It was what I wanted. That's why I picked Carolina. I think it was just the best.

IC: There were some students that came up to you. Some with signs. Do you remember some of them?

May: When I went down on my official visit, I forget the guy's name. It was kind of a heavyset guy, but he came and talked to me the day I went up after my official visit. And then there was another guy—I can't remember their names—but I talked to a couple of guys. I remember them. I think one guy was a sophomore. I can't remember his name but just the way the people are up there, it's great.

IC: There was a statement made during your visit that things were going along and all of a sudden Phil Ford became part of the visit and at that point, it was sort of a turning point. Is that true? Could you talk about that?

May: It was on my unofficial visit and we were sitting in Coach Doherty's office and he was talking about their depth chart and they were going through some tape. It was kind of like a dry feeling--it just wasn't very comfortable.

And we were all just sitting there and all of sudden Phil knocked on the door. And Phil and my Dad played on the '76 team. They got to telling old stories and that's when my Dad, I think, really felt comfortable with the Carolina program. You know, sending me ten hours away from home just to go to school.

He's talked to Phil and Phil said, "I'll be there for Sean anytime. Anytime he needs someone to talk to." And Phil's a great guy.

I talked to him when I went back on my official visit. He answered all the questions I had and that's what made me feel real comfortable with my parents.

IC: "If you could have a dream career," describe it.

May: Probably to win the state championship in high school, go to Carolina, win a couple of national championships, then go pro and just be successful. My ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and you know, I think after four years I might be ready for it—maybe not. I just want to work hard. My main thing, in college I want to win a national championship. My Dad told me, "There's no feeling like that. You can't describe it. There's only so many people in the world who can describe that feeling." And I just think it'd be great to win a national championship.

IC: Have any NBA teams been in contact with you?

May: No. My Dad's close friend, Mike Woodson, he's assistant coach for the 76ers. But that's the only person I ever talk to. But I don't even talk to him about basketball. He always just comes and stays at our house. Besides that, no NBA teams have contacted me. I know I'm not ready to go to the NBA and I think, maybe in three or four years, I might be. But, who knows?

IC: What are your goals for this season?

May: Last year we got beat in the semi- state and, year before that, we got beat in the state finals and that was hard for me. It's been hard for me the past two years. And my ultimate goal is to win the state championship. Mr. Basketball or Indiana All Stars—that's going to come with the state championship, so my ultimate goal is to lead my team to the state championship.

IC: What's your free throw percentage like?

May: My sophomore year I was around 60%. Last year it was about 65%. And this year I think I'm shooting about 84%.

IC: That's a vast improvement in free throw percentage. To what do you attribute the great change?

May: This summer, my Dad and I went to the Y and for hours shot free throws. Run up and down the court, shoot free throws. Run up and down the court, shoot free throws—just to get the feeling of being tired. And you have to hit them. He wouldn't let me leave until I hit 15 or 20 in a row. I think that, and a lack of concentration last year was my problem. This year I'm concentrating a lot better.

IC: Where do most of your points seem to come from?

May: At the high school level, most of my points come off of offensive rebounds or fast breaks because a lot of times they're double or triple-teaming me. But most of my points where I score in the half-court set are mostly jump shots. See, I don't get the ball in the post all that much because there are so many guns.

IC: Is there someone you pattern your game after?

May: I kind of like to pattern my game after Karl Malone. I think his game is unbelievable. He's so strong. He can shoot, pass… He can do it all. One day I hope I can be as good as he was.

IC: Have you ever been seriously injured?

May: No—well, yeah. I fell through a window when I was in the eighth grade. I sliced three tendons and two nerves in my right arm. And I still don't have feeling in my little finger.

IC: Is there any effect on your game that you can tell?

May: I don't notice it. The only time I notice it is if I'm actually trying to feel something, but besides that, I don't notice it.

IC: What was your favorite thing about the recruitment process?

May: Just going through it. At the end it got old. You know you just want to get it over with, but in the beginning, it was great. You get all the letters in the mail, coaches calling all the time. But at the end it was rough. I'd probably say going on official visits was the best.

IC: What was your least favorite part of being recruited? I know the scrutiny you were under was intense for the past year and a half.

May: The last two or three weeks, when I got back from Carolina, I was sitting down every day. "What do I like about this school?" "What don't I like?" And it was a lot of conversations with my Dad. He told me, "Hey, I've done all I can do. It's on you. You do what you want to do. I'm backing you up 100 percent." And you know, it was stressful. Really, it was really stressful."

IC: Tell me about your reception after declaring for Carolina. What's it been like with teammates, with schoolmates, with the community?

May: It's been a lot better than what I thought it was going to be. There's been a few people who've changed towards me, who don't talk to me as much. But a lot of people understand Sean had to do what's best for him and they back me up and they wish me luck.

Of course, they're going to still pull for Indiana but I'm not going to make or break Indiana's program. It's been a lot better than what I thought.

The day after I decided I was kind of scared to come to school because I didn't know what exactly what would happen. A lot of people were there for me and a lot of people were happy I went there [Carolina], so yeah, it wasn't as bad.

IC: Who is the toughest player that you've ever played against at any level?

May: I'd probably say Amare Stoudamire. We've actually played three or four times. The first time he scored, I think, 35 on me and I had about 12. It was when they beat us at the Peach Jam, my junior year. And then that same year, we went to nationals and I had 34 and he had 30.

And just physically, it was fun because a lot of times, guys aren't as big as me or that can handle me. But with him, I had to find different ways to score and he's just great. He's got amazing talent.

IC: What are some of your interests and hobbies?

May: I use the computer all the time. I like being on the internet. Playing video games mostly. Listen to music. Just hang out with my boys.

IC: Have you got any favorite music?

May: Jay-Z. Ludacris. I like it all really—R & B, rap… anything.

IC: What person do you most look up to in life?

May: [displaying deep emotion] My father. He came from nothing. He made something out of his life. I kind of want to be like that, too. He's just a great man and I thank him for everything he's done for me.

IC: Is there anything that's more important to you than basketball?

May: Just my family. My family, they've been there for me. My big brother, he's great. He's my best friend. He's always there for me. Besides basketball, it's my family. I love basketball but I love nothing more than my family.

IC: What's your present height?

May: 6-9

IC: Are you still growing?

May: I think I am. I had my growth plates checked out last year and they were still open. I hope I am. My Dad grew two inches after he got in college.

IC: What's your playing weight right now?

May: I think right now I'm about 265.

IC: I understand you've dropped some weight with the conditioning? Will you continue to drop through the season?

May: By the time—I always play my best basketball around tournament time and I think around tournament time I'll be about 250-255.

IC: What does Coach Doherty talk to you about concerning an ideal playing weight?

May: Coach Doherty told me "I don't care what weight you are as long as you can get up and down the floor. If I can tell that 250 is your best playing weight, then you need to be 250."

Coach McKinney, the strength coach [for Carolina], he told me, "I'm going to get you in the best shape you've ever been in, in your life." That kind of got me. I like to hear that. And I think 250 is probably where I want to be.

IC: What's your vertical?

May: Right now my vertical is 28".

IC: How about your bench press?

May: It's 275 pounds.

IC: How is your senior season going, Sean?

May: Right now, we're struggling a little bit. We're 7-0 and we should be killing teams but right now we're getting some of the kinks out and it's kind of good that we're not peaking right now. I think, come tournament time, we'll be the team that we always felt we were going to be and we'll be able to make a run for the state championship.

IC: Who are your favorite players to watch on the college level?

May: Favorite player? I'd say it was Shane Battier last year. I really like the way he played. Forte, Haywood ... Vince, when he was in college. Right now, I think probably my favorite player ... I don't think I have one right now. I just watch college basketball no matter who it is. I think my most favorite player to watch was Antawn Jamison when he was in college.

IC: How hard was it to talk to Bracey Wright and tell him of your decision?

May: Bracey and I were real close. It was hard.

I called him a week, a week and a half before I made my decision and told him I was thinking about it. And I called him two days before I did it and he said, "I understand. You've got to do what you've got to do. You've got to do what's best for you."

It was hard. I don't think anyone realizes how hard it was, how close me and Bracey were. I told my Mom I felt really bad because I kind of led him on that I was going to come to IU. I think he understood and I've talked to him since then and it's been OK.

IC: Recruiting is over now. What occupies your mind these days?

May: Playing hard. Doing good in school. Being there for your family. You've got to spend some time with your parents and my brother. For the most part, it's just going to class and going to basketball practice. You don't have that much free time!

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