By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU basketball player, Skylar Mays. Mays just finished a fantastic four year career with the Tigers.
He became the Tigers' starting point guard during his freshman year, averaging eight points per game.
As a sophomore, Mays averaged eleven points, as LSU would participate in the NIT, falling to Utah in the second round.
He averaged thirteen points per game as a junior as he would help the Tigers win a SEC Championship and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. He was named second team All-SEC and the conference's scholar-athlete of the year. Mays would score his 1,000th career point on February 26, 2019 against Texas A&M.
Mays was named preseason first team All-SEC and to the watch lists for the Jerry West and the Naismith Player of the Year awards. He was also named the 45th-best collegiate basketball player going into the 2019-20 season by CBS Sports. In his senior year he would average sixteen points a game. At the end of the regular season he was again named a first team Academic All-American and was selected as the Academic All-American of the Year as well as First Team All-SEC and was named the scholar-athlete of the year for a second straight season.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Skylar - Gold
Q - What is your favorite food?
Skylar - Fried Rice
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Skylar - Currently: LeBron James Growing Up: Kevin Garnett & Chris Paul
Q - Favorite Movie?
Skylar - Coming to America
Q - Favorite Actor?
Skylar - Will Smith & Leo DiCaprio
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Skylar - Drake
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Skylar - basketball player and a Doctor
Q - Why did you transfer to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada for your senior year of high school?
Skylar - I kinda felt like I had done all that I could do here, and even with basketball here in Louisiana being very good, I was just looking for another big challenge. It was 100% a basketball choice. To have the opportunity to play for one of the top high school basketball programs in the nation. (Mays helped lead Findlay to a State Championship in his senior season).
Q - What do you remember the most about your freshman basketball experience?
Slylar - Going against Jalyn Patterson in practice definitely help me get prepared. The speed of the game is so much different then what I was use too. I wasn't able to dictate the pace of the game like I was able to do in high school. So I had to catch up with the other guys. It took me some time to pick it up. Freshman go through that freshman wall during that stretch. Figuring that out, and once you get the hang of it, it's just like anything else. You start to feel comfortable and then you try to start to expand your game and start to try things. Then you just try to take off from there.
Q - Did you feel a lot of pressure being named LSU's starting point guard as a true freshman?
Skyler - Not really, because it is something that I wanted. Coach Jones and I talked about the opportunity. It wasn't given to me, I definitely had to earn the role, I feel like I worked hard for it. So I wouldn't say I felt much pressure.
Q - What was the coaching change like for you and your teammates?
Skylar - At first it's a shock. In high school its very rare that you have more then one basketball coach, unless you move like I did. You just don't see coaches getting fired in high school. So this was the first time I had ever had a coaching change in my career. It's different. You see the business side of things i guess. Its something you can't control. My first thoughts were, what is Coach Jones going to do? How is this going to affect him? You just hope for the best for him. Then you kinda turn the attention to yourself, thinking, man, what am I going to do? You just have no idea who will be your next coach, or will the new coach like me. How will my game fit in with what he plans to do? You feel nervous and anxious. I like to joke with Coach Wade, I say "Look, I actually played well when I played against you". We actually played against him and VCU my freshman year. I played really well that game, even though they beat us. I tell him, "Look, if I wouldn't have played you well, you may have not liked my game", because coach likes faster guys and I'm not one of the fastest guys on the court.
Q - First Impression of Coach Wade?
It didn't take long for Coach Wade and I to develop a strong relationship. It's grown over these last three years and it will continue to grow. I'm just glad that he ended up coming here and that I got to play under him.
Q - Can you tell me a little about Tremont Waters?
Yea. I could just go on and on about him. He is special, and everyone who watches him sees it. Actually, my first encounter with Tremont here was that I was his host. So when we are recruiting, and guys come to campus on their visits, a player usually host them. So I was picked to host Tremont and I got to meet his family and his father, may his father rest in peace, and his mother. Just a lovely family. I got to hang with them and we went to Parrains, and I made him try alligator. So that's something that I will always remember. As far as playing with him, he is so easy to play with. He is a wizard with the ball. Me transitioning to off the ball, if it would had been any other point guard, my sophomore year would have been tougher. But he got me so many open looks, even though I was uncomfortable playing off the ball, that I was just able to make simple plays and be successful on the court. He's a great player and obviously he is doing great things trying to establish himself in the League. Yea Tremont is my boy.
Q - How was it during your Junior year to have the two big men (Naz Reid & Kavell Bigby-Williams) playing in the starting lineup?
Skylar - It's night and day. I guess I could start off with Kavell. Kavell, man, on defense we would just try to funnel guys into him, because he was going to block everything, he was gunna get everything on the glass. Unbelievable motor. He would play so hard, running the floor every time so hard, super competitive. He was a leader in that aspect, just bringing energy, and us always being able to count on him. Especially an older guy who's come in and has already won before, while he was at Oregon. Bringing us that winning pedigree and winning habits. He was just our enforcer back there. I think people could see it this year, the difference of not having someone like him and how it helped and how valuable he was to all the success we had my junior year.
Then Naz, Naz just oozes talent. He is so so talented. Talk about a 6'11" guard, with a high high basketball IQ. He had his bumps in the road, but all freshman do. He played hard for us. Some people may have thought he was a deva, but he did stuff for us that most other big guys don't do, like taking charges and diving for loose balls. He would always listen very well, that's why he is going to be so successful in the League, and why he is starting for the Timber Wolves. He tries to do the little things. He is going to continue to grow because he has the right mindset. For us, he took up so much space and closed up so many gaps that it made it hard for guards from the other teams to go into the paint. So having those two big guys set the tone defensively by letting guys know they didn't have any place to go very much. Then offensively, they were both guys you could just throw it into and you could play through them and they would make a lot of big plays for us. Both of them where a huge huge part of us being SEC Champs that year and getting to the Sweet Sixteen.
Q - Do you have anymore school left? And if so will that be put on hold while you pursue a career in pro basketball?
Skylar - I'm more then likely going to put that on hold. I'm finishing under-grad this semester. It's going to be weird with all these online classes. Yes, I'm definitely going to pursue. I'm been hearing good feed back on where I stand as a draft prospect. So I'm going to pursue that and keep playing as long as I can, then work on any degrees later on down the road.
Q - How do you manage being a student athlete? Juggling going to class, practice, games, traveling, studying, and managing to make outstanding grades the way you do?
Skylar - Yes, first of all I want to give credit to my parents who have taught me the value of a good education. They gave me a standard to meet by watching how they work everyday and how they approach what they do. They just kinda rubbed off on me. They are also my support system. My dad was a college athlete and went to medical school also. So me being able to have those talks with him and my older brother about how to balance things and on certain classes that we all took helped me out a lot. But as far as balancing things, it's kind of a "want to" thing. It's kind of a "want to". You got to understand what you're working towards and how you're setting your life up. You really have to rely on that as motivation to keep you going, because it's not easy. But having people behind you, who understand what you're going through definitely helps keep you going and being motivated to be successful on both aspects.
Q - What type of physician are you going to school to be? Is it sports medicine?
Skyler - Nothing is confirmed yet. Usually you kinda trickle it down to after medical school to kinda figure out what you want to be during clinicals. So many people say they want to do this, want to do that, but then once you go through your clinical rotations and see all the different things, that's when you will really come across what you want to be. As someone who has played at a high level, I could only see myself being around sports right now if I get into the medical field, but things change.
Q - When was the first time you met Dale Brown?
Skylar - The first time I actually met Dale Brown was at Wayde's funeral. That was the first time I actually shook hands with him and met him, yea. He actually came and approached me because I had spoken at Wayde's vigil, and he just came to me and said he heard it, and wanted to show his appreciation, which mean't a lot to me. I actually talk to Coach Brown a good bit now. We are starting to develop a relationship. He told me that he wishes that I had played for him, which definitely meant the world to me. That meant a whole lot to me. That wasn't really the circumstances that I wish I would have met him for the first time, but Coach Brown is an awesome, awesome human being.
Q - Has any former LSU Basketball great ever spoken to you or has given you advice on your playing career?
Skylar - Yea, I actually got to meet with Mahmoud (Abdul-Rauf) after his ceremony. Another awesome human being who just loves to give off knowledge and great energy. I hang around Big Wayne a lot. I call him Big Wayne, ... Wayde's dad. Stanley Roberts is always there. I have a great relationship with Stanley Roberts. Garrett (Temple), I spoke with him last week. Throughout the basketball season, he has always shown support. Marcus Thronton is still in town, I talk to him. I've got to talk with Tyrus Thomas a couple of times. With him being back in school, I talk to him pretty often. I talk to Stromlie Swift every once in awhile. A lot of great players. Big Baby, it's a fraternity. A fraternity for sure. Coach Brady is awesome.
Q - I'm guessing the biggest disappointment of your college career has got to be this year, not being able to play in the post season?
Skylar - Yea, I don't want to harp too much on that. You know I ended my LSU career in Baton Rouge where I was born and raised. There are so many positives I could take from how the season ended. Just like everyone else, I would have loved to compete in the NCAA Tournament with the potential to win a national championship, especially with the way our momentum was going. That Georgia game and the confidence we had going into the SEC Tournament. But my last time playing a basketball game in Baton Rouge, was a win. I was wearing a LSU jersey, in my home town, with all my family there. You know what I mean? So that's not the worse way to end your college basketball career. Especially with me being a hometown kid. That's where my soul is and it brings me peace on how it all ended.
Q - What will you miss the most about playing at LSU?
Skylar - Playing in front of the best fans in all of America. I'm also going to miss practicing with the guys from year one to year four. Just how fun practice was. Getting to compete and getting to have a getaway from all the other stuff that you're dealing with. I have a lot more basketball ahead of me, but it won't be the same. Nothing could ever replace the experience here that I've had here at LSU.