LSU junior guard Skylar Mays is no rookie to ESPN’s Sportscenter Top-10 plays. Mays has become a regular on the show over the last two years for his seemingly easy yet difficult dunks.
The first time he appeared on the show was in November of 2017 in the Tigers eventual win over Michigan when he took an over-the-head Tremont Waters pass from half-court and finished with a 180 degree, two-handed jam. Mays’ next appearance came just three weeks ago, in a win over UNC-Greensboro when he took off from just inside the free throw line and dunked on two defenders at the rim in a 97-91 victory.
That play made No. 3 on the list yet Mays insists he’s not a flashy player but rather has a knack for flashy plays.
“I was fortunate enough to be on it last year,” Mays said. “I don’t want to say I’m used to it but it was a pretty cool moment. I saw the opportunity and was able to execute.”
It’s moments like those that Mays grew up envisioning for himself at the age of six, when he would play at Sports Academy with his childhood friend, Wayde Sims. The pair started at Sports Academy in downtown Baton Rouge, where they played on numerous AAU teams for the facility before ultimately going to University Lab for high school.
Mays and Sims started on the varsity team in the eighth grade and won two state championships together before Mays ultimately left for Findlay Prep School his senior year. Mays said the decision to leave the school and his best friend behind was a difficult, but ultimately a great experience for him.
“I enjoyed my time there,” Mays said. “The hardest part was getting the guys together and telling them I was leaving. It was a good group of guys but not being able to finish, you kind of look back and kind of feel bad about it but it the right decision for me at the time.”
A return to Baton Rouge wasn’t too far in the distance as the 6-foot-4 inch Mays committed to LSU in 2016 after being recruited by Baylor, UNLV, Oklahoma State and Gonzaga. Joining Mays and his recruiting class was Sims, the 2014-15 Gatorade player of the year for the state of Louisiana.
The two played together at LSU for two years, where Mays averaged 10 points per game while Sims averaged six in 63 career games. In September, Sims was fatally shot and killed outside of Southern University while trying to protect a friend.
At a candle-light vigil the next week honoring the slain Sims, Mays walked up to the podium and delivered a moving speech about his life-long friend.
“I feel like everyone who knew Wayde knew that he smiled all the time,” Mays said. “He was a loving person and had a smile that was contagious. The biggest reason I think he smiled so much was because of his beautiful family and the loving support system he had.”
The family Wayde had was a feeling Mays knows all too well, growing up with seven brothers and sisters as well as two doctors for parents. Growing up with two doctors in the family, helping others was a big preaching point from his father, Stan and mother Shannon.
“The environment I grew up in was always wanting to help others,” Mays said. “Being a doctor, that’s pretty much what it’s all about. As soon as my junior year is over I’ll probably shadow my dad.”
Mays first love is basketball and wants to give the professional level a shot before ultimately coming back for medical school for a doctorate degree. In order to do that, Mays has maintained a 4.0 GPA as a pre-med student his first three years at LSU, studying kinesiology as an undergrad.
A day-to-day life for Mays starts by waking up at 6 a.m. for weights followed by usually three morning classes, a lab, practice and then another lab at night on Mondays.
“It’s a lot but you just have to remain focused and lock in every day,” Mays said. “I like to stay on top of things and make sure I’m managing my time well. I take advantage of the little breaks I get and that helps me.”
Some outside activities that Mays enjoys is skating and playing instruments, most notably the trumpet where he was on the band in high school.
“I love playing instruments and even though I haven’t had the time recently, I would love to get back into that,” Mays said. “Wayde used to make fun of me for that, you know I’d be on the high school football field for football games. I stopped after my freshman year to focus on basketball.”
With eight new faces on the roster this season, Mays is just one of five returning players, leaving a heavy leadership role on the junior. While that’s something he embraces, Mays is more of a lead by example guy than a vocal leader.
Coach Will Wade said he has an “unbelievable” amount of trust in Mays and he’s responding averaging a career high 14.6 points per game in the early season, including a most recent road trip to Orlando where Mays averaged 17 a game in the Advocare Invitational.
“He’s a hard worker,” Wade said. “He has a good understanding of how things work so that’s important. He completely transformed his body in the offseason so that just shows the kind of dedication he has not only to the game but in life.”