If Chris Dortch is right — and he usually is when it comes to evaluating college basketball talent and teams — transfer Julius Mays of Wright State will be both a good and comfortable fit with coach John Calipari's program.
"I have seen him play. He is not a great athlete, but he can get to the rim," said Dortch, the editor of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and a regular contributor for www.nba.com. "But what he does that Kentucky fans are really going to like is he shoots the ball very, very well.
"He might not be quite the shooter Doron Lamb was the last two years, but when you shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range like he did last year, then you are an excellent shooter. People closing out on him at the SEC level are going to be just a bit better than the Verizon League level, but Calipari's offense will get him some shots and if he gets unguarded 3's, he's going to make a lot of those."
Dortch said he looked through his old Blue Ribbon Yearbooks and laughed when he saw there that one reason Mays left North Carolina State after two years was because of incoming point guard Ryan Harrow, who transferred to UK?after one season. Mays will now be his likely backup next season.
"But he did well at North Carolina State. I?talked to our guy who covers the Verizon League and he said those coaches all really liked him as a player. They worry if he can defend at the highest level, but Calipari will help with that. He makes a lot of guys better defensive players than they have ever been," Dortch said.
"This was a good get for Kentucky. They needed depth at guard and needed experience, and he gives them both. He'll be 23 when the season starts and has played two years in the ACC, sat out a year and played another year in the Verizon League. When he was a freshman, he was inconsistent. He hit a 3 to beat Miami and then got in the coach's doghouse and did not play for six games. Just typical freshman ups and downs.
"But he seems real mature now and knows what he wants. He's not going to play in the NBA.?He wants to get into sports management and just made a good business decision by going to Kentucky. He has a good head on his shoulders, and Kentucky needed a guy who can make shots. It's a very good fit for him and Kentucky."
The 6-2 Mays averaged 14.2 points per game last year and led Wright State in scoring, assists (74) and steals while shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range (50-for-118). He made at least three 3-pointer in eight games last season. Mays also hit 83.2 percent from the free-throw line last season, a higher percentage than anyone on UK's national championship roster did.
"Mark Lyons did not see eye to eye with Xavier coach Chris Mack about how he was utilized and has a history of head problems and was also part of that fight with Cincinnati. Kentucky did not need that," Dortch said. "This kid has no issues like that and can make shots and fit into the team concept. He obviously wants to be on a team that can win and compete for a national championship and adding him gives Kentucky a better shot to be a championship contender again. Now they just need to get another big."
The Wildcats lost out on five-star forward Anthony Bennett, who picked Nevada-Las Vegas. They are not considered the favorite for four-star forward Amile Jefferson, who is set to announce his decision today. However, Dortch wouldn't be stunned to see UK?land power forward Montrezl Harrell, a Virginia Tech signee who was released from that commitment after the school fired coach Seth Greenberg.
"If they get him, they may not be more talented than last year's team but this could turn out to deeper than any team Cal has had at Kentucky," Dortch said. "He would be another good get, and I have heard he really likes Kentucky.
"Sometimes it can be a little risky the way Cal does business and there could be guys to resist the urge to play at Kentucky like Bennett did. Sometimes you'll just have misses, so to get a kid like Mays this late in the game — a kid who can really shoot and was courted by Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue — is pretty remarkable. And then to maybe be in position to add Harrell, too. That could only happen with Calipari and Kentucky."