BATON ROUGE, La. — With one week of full team practices under his belt, it’s not quite clear if Skylar Mays just got back from Oz or is on his way down the yellow brick road as we speak.
A Baton Rouge native who spent grades 8-11 playing at University High School, Mays transferred to Findlay Prep, an elite basketball academy that has produced NBA players like former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and NBA champion Tristan Thompson, for his senior year. But now Mays is back on the Bayou. And to him, there’s nothing like it.
“There’s no place like home,” Mays said. “I really believe in that. I had a good time at Findlay, but I’m having a great time here.”
Having learned the moral of the story, it would seem that Mays’ journey through Oz was a successful one. But just about a month before the start of his freshman season at LSU, the young point guard might be home, but his journey is just beginning.
Mays, along with junior Jalyn Patterson and junior college transfer Branden Jenkins, makes up the trio of men competing to serve as LSU’s regular point guard. And just like Dorothy’s three companions in The Wizard of Oz, each of the three brings a specific talent to the table that LSU head basketball coach Johnny Jones thinks can help lead his team to victory.
Patterson, the lone SEC veteran of the bunch, is the offensive weapon. Jones said that Patterson is a talented shooter who knows how to “stretch the defense” and is gifted enough as a ball-handler to slash through crowds to get to the hoop. Jenkins is the feistiest player, commanding the strongest defensive presence and a speed unlike his counterparts. And Mays? Mays is the deceptive one. His skills as a shooter haven’t quite developed, but he’s the biggest of the three players and his combination of size and agility make him perhaps the most effective distributor of the ball.
With such a diverse talent group fighting for what will amount to one starting spot, it would be natural to assume that the point guard room is a hyper-competitive one. But to Jenkins, that’s not the case.
“As far as competition, everybody’s got a job to do,” Jenkins said. “We’re going to do what coach asks us to do.”
Sadly for Jenkins, the coaches can’t ask him to do very much right now. Jenkins is sidelined with a knee injury and said he doesn’t have a concrete timetable for his return. That said, he said he’s progressing well.
“The knee is getting better every day,” Jenkins said. “I’m just getting stronger, staying on my strength and conditioning coach and lifting a lot. Just lifting a lot and getting back in shape to get back for the season coming up.”
Jones has not given any direct indication as to whether it will be Patterson or Mays who starts the season at the point with Jenkins on the bench. But Jones seems like he has enough confidence in his freshman to give him copious playing time from Day 1, because of how hard he’s seen the youngster work.
“He puts a lot of time in the gym,” Jones said. “He has a great basketball IQ. He understands how to play. And as he continues to develop and understand exactly what we’re looking for as we implement our offensive and defensive schemes, he’s going to continue to get better because he does a great job of picking things up.”
Or, in other words, the things you can guarantee about Mays are that he has a brain and he has heart. As for the courage, that hasn’t been proven yet, but you can bet he’s going to work to prove it’s there.
“That’s just the type of guy I am,” Mays said. “I like to be a gym rat, I love being in here. I just try to work on everything.”