Kentucky's Mays gaining confidence in his role and in his shot

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 6, 2013 

  • Next game

    Auburn at Kentucky

    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. (WKYT-27)

The freewheelin' Julius Mays is a hit with Kentucky basketball.

After equaling a season high with four three-point shots in a second straight game Tuesday, Mays attributed his good shooting to relaxation.

"It was all in my head," he said. "It was all mental. I was just not shooting the ball with confidence."

In the five games leading into Southeastern Conference play, Mays made only five of 26 shots from beyond the arc. His 4-for-5 accuracy in Tuesday's 77-55 victory over South Carolina moved him to 22-for-43 in league play (51.2 percent). That includes an excellent 8 for 11 in the last two games.

"I was really second-guessing myself and my shot," he said, "instead of letting it fly like I've done my whole life.

"I'm finally coming around and freewheelin', and not worrying about it."

Mays, a graybeard for UK as a graduate student, noted the adjustment in coming from being a go-to guy at Wright State to a designated shooter for Kentucky.

"I came from a system where I had the ball in my hands 30 minutes a game," he said. "It took a while for me to adjust to guys creating my shot for me, and me running off screens. ... I've gotten a lot more comfortable with it."

Mays acknowledged the added pressure that comes with a limited number of shots per game.

"At first, it was," he said "Now, I don't think about it. I know the guys are looking for me. I'm always telling them when I'm open, and to be looking for me. It's all a work in progress."

Kentucky made 61.4 percent of its shots against South Carolina. That was the best UK has shot against a Southeastern Conference opponent since making two-thirds of its shots (26 of 39) at Auburn on Feb. 6, 2008.

Not that South Carolina's first-year coach, Frank Martin, was overwhelmed. Martin, who puts the blunt in the term blunt instrument, chastised his team's poor defense.

When asked what happened when Kentucky outscored the Gamecocks 28-6 in the final 10 minutes of the first half, he said, "What happens every single time we play a game. Kentucky buttoned up and realized they weren't playing well, and they had to play better. Our guys completely broke away from the discipline that we try to instill, and basically got out of the way so (the Cats) could practice their dunking."

Harrow-ing observation

Returning to a familiar theme, UK Coach John Calipari said Ryan Harrow needed to be an emotional leader.

"We need more emotion, more intensity, more touching," Calipari said. "We're talking to him all the time about the best point guards in the NBA and the best point guards in college basketball are always touching their teammates. Just touch. I mean, physically, you touch them all the time. ...

"It's just not natural for him."

Harrow prefers a laid-back approach, the UK coach said.

"We're trying to convince him that when he does play the right way, I believe he's as good as any point guard in the country," Calipari said. "The other guy is not really that good."

When told of Calipari's best-point guard comment, Harrow said, "He told you all that? He says that I just have to keep working. I have to pick my energy up as much as I can and do whatever I can to help the team on the defensive end and running the team on the offensive end."

Harrow made all six of his shots against South Carolina while getting credit for four assists in 25 minutes. He had only one turnover.



Auburn at Kentucky

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. (WKYT-27)

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog:

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