Interview with Debbie May

BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- <i>Inside Carolina</i>'s David Thompson chatted with Debbie May, the mother of Tar Heel signee Sean May.

Sporting an Indiana sweatshirt, Debbie May eagerly answered questions concerning her son, Sean, who will play for Carolina next year.

In the interview, which followed her guest lecture in one of Indiana's Television and Communication classes, Debbie shared her thoughts concerning both the past, present and future for the May family. As son Scott May Jr., a guard for Indiana, listened and joined in the conversation [his interview also posted today], Debbie talked about their basketball family and specifically Sean.

What became evident was that the May family has a deep red Indiana heritage, but proudly will blend Carolina blue into their wardrobe as Sean joins the Tar Heels.

IC: What should people know about your son, Sean, besides the basketball?

Debbie May: I would like for them to know that Sean's really a teddy bear. He's just a big old teddy bear. And he's a kid that's made of really good character. That's what I admire most about him. He's not easily led by others. He really goes on his own instinct.

IC: As Sean was growing up, what kinds of things helped Sean to develop to be the person and basketball player he is today?

Debbie May: My kids played every sport. They lived in Italy for five years. We were actually in Italy the same time that Kobe's [Bryant] parents were there. Sean's dad and Kobe's dad both played in Europe at the same time. So my kids, the first sport they played was soccer.

And I allowed them to play every sport. Sean, in one year, played soccer, football, basketball and baseball, all in one year.

IC: Sean seems to have great agility as a big man. Would you attribute that to playing soccer?

Debbie May: I would probably attribute that to having Scottie as a big brother—more or less running around from him. But I think they were well rounded. We didn't force them into any sport. We tried to expose them to as much as possible and then we let them make their choice. I think that helped to make them more well rounded because they were complete.

Sean and Scott were the defensive and the offensive players of the year in the same year in football because Sean was blocking for Scott. Scott was a running back and he scored 64 touchdowns in one year because Sean was blocking for him.

IC: What kind of advice would you have for other parents who have kids in similar situations as your kids?

Debbie May: One of the rules we made for our kids that seemed to have worked is commitment. And once you commit yourself to something, then you're bound to that by your word to finish it out. So even when my kids felt they weren't with a good team, or they didn't personally get along with their coach, I always made them complete the course they charted. Now the next year, if they didn't want to play, they didn't have to play. But if they decided that that's what they were going to do, then that's what they had to do.

I think when you start completion early, that it spills over into school, into home life. Always complete what you start.

As a family, in terms of recruiting, we let the recruiting process become part of our family so that Sean wouldn't feel so torn like he had to make this decision all by himself. We tried to keep it as much of a family unit as we possibly could.

IC: How difficult for you personally was Sean's choice of North Carolina, with the distance factor?

Debbie May: I think for Scott [Sean's father], it was a little bit tougher than for me. He was an athlete here at Indiana. He left such a large reputation here for both boys that it would probably be any father's dream to have both of their sons play where he played. So I think us having had our boys play high school basketball together, it would've been great to see them continue on in college.

But I think for what Sean wanted and for what he was seeking, he made the best choice that was for him.

And I am so thankful that the people in North Carolina have welcomed him so. He feels so welcomed there and I'm so thankful for that.

IC: Will you be able to visit and see Sean's games there?

Debbie May: Yes. I'm actually coming down there in about another month and I'm going to start looking for a place to live. I want to share both my boys' college experience. So I'm going to keep my place here in Indiana and I'm going to get a place in North Carolina.

IC: Have you been there yet?

Debbie May: No, I didn't actually get to visit there, to the school. I did do a tour with Glaxo-Wellcome, which is in Raleigh, so I have been in the area and it is simply gorgeous! But I've never actually been on the campus of UNC and I'm looking very forward to that. But I'm going to try to experience both of my kids' college days with them so that I can see Scottie play basketball and I can see Sean play basketball.

IC: What was important to you about a school for Sean?

Debbie May: I think the components you look for is that, first of all, you want to try to put your kid in the hands of a coach that cares about him, because they're transitioning to the next level of life. And that's scary for any parent. I think you want to make sure they're somewhere where somebody genuinely cares, is sincere.

And where they're going to get a good education and just where they're going to exemplify their true character. If Sean never plays another day of basketball, if he gets hurt tomorrow, he will have a great education from North Carolina. I don't think Coach Doherty will care any less about him because I think he cares about Sean as a person, more than an athlete.

That's pretty much what I was looking for. I think Sean has a true sense of family at Carolina. He feels it's a very close-knit group and he feels very much a part of it.

IC: You've seen basketball from many levels—the high school level, the college level and professional level. Talk about Sean in terms of what's to come and what you sense is to come. Does he have the mentality and make-up for the pro game?

Debbie May: I think that, as I try to tell both of my sons because I've been sitting around basketball for 20-some years now (I could probably coach—just joking!), but what I do tell them is that there a lot of kids with enough talent to make it to the NBA. The question is, can they stay?

And I think we are certainly on the wrong path with kids jumping out of high school into the NBA, who have had no character-building blocks, who have had no responsibility of being young men in the world, and just throwing them into a situation where they become financially lucrative, but personally broken inside.

Because of their maturity level—I don't think, at that level, you can skip a phase. And this is what I said to Sean. Sean will not jump ahead of the building process.

I think that it is something that all young men need. That's why you go [to college]. You don't just go for an education. Coaches help to build good young men. The coach sometimes helps you to get you first job—just different things that you need to go through in life to learn how to be a complete person, rather than just to say, "I'm in the NBA and I have some money. I have no education but I have some money."

So I just don't think that that's a good ideology to practice and I think as we're letting these kids go earlier and earlier and earlier, we've got to stop and say, "Who's going help develop these kids?" We are actually setting them up for failure. That's just my personal opinion.

IC: What are you most proud of concerning Sean? Debbie May: I'm most proud of Sean that both of my kids are friends. They are certainly in a difficult position. They're eleven months apart, they play the same sport…

I know, if I were Scottie, it would be difficult for me because, like Scottie said, he was the kid that had speed, the quickness. I mean, he was the first star, appropriately so—he was the big brother. And then, just one day, Sean kind of like blossomed! But the good thing about it is it didn't change their relationship. He still was the big brother; it didn't matter how much people liked Sean, he'd still beat him up. There was still that big brother level of respect and Scottie's right.

When he was little and they would go out to play, nobody wanted Sean. Sean was big and clumsy and slow. Scott would be like, "No, well, you've got to play my brother." And so, I think just Scott being that year older, put Sean around older kids early. He was able to prosper from that.

I'm so admiring of both of them that Scott does not have a jealous bone in his body when it comes to his little brother. He wants him to succeed and pushes him toward success, whereas you know how siblings are. You'd think at some point… And I have a sister and I would think that that would be so tough but he has handled it so well and he's been so supportive. I'm just most admiring of them because they're such good friends.

IC: What was the most difficult part of the decision for Sean?

Debbie May: I think for Sean, the difficulty with making a decision about whether or not to go to Indiana University is much more difficult because he's a hometown product. I think if this were not home for him, as with some of the other recruits, I think it would have been different. But I think to miss the experience of going away to college like other kids have been able to do [was part of the difficulty].

Certainly, [it would have been different] if Indiana were a place where he were able to go away to, is what I'm trying to say, than to be brought up here and brought up at Assembly Hall and watch IU all his life. So I think this is just him more or less spreading his wings and leaving home like Jon Holmes did or a Rex Grossman-any other kid who grew up in Bloomington and decided to leave home to go away to college. It's the same thing. It's just a little bit different because his Dad played basketball here.

IC: And Scott May leaves a big shadow at IU.

Debbie May: Absolutely.

IC: Inside Carolina thanks you for answering our questions.

Debbie May: And I also want to say that I personally, personally thank Coach Doherty for coming down here to see Sean play. He called me at home to tell me that he was coming to see Sean play. But the funny story to that is, he was on his way to Decatur, Indiana and Coach Wojcik called and I just happened to say that the school [Decatur Central game on 12/14/01] was near the airport, so they were able to catch the pilot before they ever took off.

He knows that Sean is having a tough time. They're both having a tough year. And Scott's not helping it for Sean. [laughing] But they're both having a tough year they've both been so supportive. As soon as Coach Doherty won, Sean called him and congratulated him. He calls Sean every week and, just knowing that he was there to show Sean support, I think is just immeasurable. Because we know he's busy and for him to just do that for that kid, I think it means so much to him.


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