U-High’s Skylar Mays growing — on the court and physically

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND --  University High's Skylar Mays soars toward the basket against Brusly in Class 3A regional playoff game Tuesday at Busly.  University took the win 72-55. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- University High's Skylar Mays soars toward the basket against Brusly in Class 3A regional playoff game Tuesday at Busly. University took the win 72-55.

No one doubts that the University High boys basketball team will put up an intense title defense in 2014-15.

Point guard Skylar Mays has gotten an early start in a manner that doesn’t necessarily involve speaking about it.

“I know I’ve got to improve my defense,” Mays said. “So that’s been a big part of what I’ve been working on this summer. I think we had a great year last year. But there’s always something to work on.”

Such statements may not be the best news for opponents since the Cubs finished 30-7 last spring while winning the Class 3A state title, the school’s first in boys basketball in a decade.

Mays played a key role, averaging 11 points and 7.3 assists per game. He earned All-Metro and Class 3A all-state honors after helping UHS navigate through the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Top 28 tournament.

It started with Mays dishing out 10 assists in a 71-49 win over Bossier in the semifinals. He added seven more assists to establish a two-game Top 28 record in the Cubs’ 69-64 title-game win over Richwood.

Those wins amount to ancient history now for Mays, a junior-to-be who has attended several camps and showcases and has played AAU basketball this summer. However, he focused on the Cubs in June, playing summer league games and attending team camps.

When Mays says he’s grown, he isn’t just talking about basketball skills. He now stands 6-foot-3½.

U-High coach Joe Spencer sees other signs of growth in Mays, who along with 6-6 Wayde Sims, D.J. White and Jalen Johnson form the nucleus of players who have started since they were eighth-graders.

“Skylar likes to talk about his defense and outside shooting and getting better in those areas,” Spencer said. “He does need to improve his defense and he has. I actually think he’s a good outside shooter. It’s a matter of him taking more shots.

“But the thing I’m the most excited about is his leadership. A point guard is always a leader. Skylar is more vocal now. He dives on the floor for loose balls and that’s leading by example. That’s the kind of growth we were looking for.”

Putting up a good defense these days also includes Mays explaining why he has backed off his February commitment to LSU.

“I still love LSU and I’m sure I’ll be at every football game and every basketball game I can get to,” Mays explained. “This is about making sure I take the time to make the right decision. It’s something I talked about with my parents a lot.”

Mays, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, has offers from LSU, Southeastern Louisiana University and Tulsa. He’s also heard from Oklahoma State, Alabama and UNLV.

Of course, U-High fans may ponder what might have been in another sport. Mays played quarterback and receiver in football, but gave the sport up after eighth-grade. He follows the summer recruiting news on ex-teammates such as Malik Antoine and Tre’ Jackson, who also will be juniors this fall.

Mays gets advice from older brother Stan, an Episcopal graduate and a preferred walk-on at Texas Tech last season. He says he’ll offer younger brother Spencer, a freshman-to-be in line for playing time for U-High, advice when needed.

“Defense is something he can work on,” Mays said. “But I’m not sure I should be the one giving him advice on that.”