By Mike Deak
SOUTH WHITLEY – Julius Mays has been on the big stage for much of his athletic life. The former Kentucky star and professional basketball player is ready to step onto the stage of a new kind.
Mays was approved earlier this week by the Whitko School Board to become its next athletic director. He noted he is ready for the next challenge in what is his first full athletic director gig.
“Playing basketball at Marion, then in the ACC and SEC, that will prepare you for everything,” Mays said Thursday afternoon. “Playing at Kentucky is about as big as it gets. You learn to deal with just about everything there.”
Mays, who was a hoops superstar at Marion High School as a 2008 graduate, first went to North Carolina State, and later transferred to Wright State. As a grad transfer, he took center stage as part of the starting lineup at the University of Kentucky in 2012. Later going on to play professionally in Italy, Mays came full circle in his basketball career, which eventually brought him back to his alma mater to work as an assistant athletic director at Marion.
Mays’ name is rich in tradition at Marion, having guided the Giants to a semi-state appearance as a junior and then taking the next step to the IHSAA State Finals as a senior. Mays scored 18.6 points per game as a senior as the Giants won 24 games. He earned First Team All-State honors in the process. The program is one of the most celebrated in the state, having won 70 sectionals and eight state titles as one of the oldest programs in the state’s glorious history.
Mays played 58 games for the Wolfpack in his first two years of college ball, then transferred to Wright State and became the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and Second Team All-League for the Raiders. He made the jump to Kentucky in 2012 and immediately became an impact player. Mays made 28 starts and was a 37-percent three-point shooter for the Wildcats. He dropped 16 points at the Joyce Center against Notre Dame and another 24 points against Missouri among becoming the fourth-leading scorer on the roster that had five players get drafted into the NBA.
Mays landed with the Italian professional basketball franchise Mobyt Ferrara for a time before heading stateside and back home to begin his post-professional life. He was the assistant basketball coach for the Lady Giants and an assistant to Steve Moritz and the Giants athletic department.
Mays has seen it all, but is ready to see things from a different perspective in South Whitley.
“I did a little bit of everything at Marion,” Mays said. “What I found myself doing more of, and what seemed to work, was working with the feeder system. Part of what I’m going to work on at Whitko is getting their feeder system going. I did a lot of the day-to-day administrative work for (Steve). I can’t take credit for much there, I learned under one of the best. I want to learn and start something on my own.”
As with everything in 2020, starting anything new has been an adjustment of Zoom calls and lots of phone time. Mays did most of his legwork with the hiring process remotely, and said with schools closed until at least July 1 will continue to be a speed bump in getting acclimated into a school system brand new to him.
“It’ll be difficult to get out there to start, I won’t lie,” Mays said. “I met with the booster club already. It’s not like I can just do meet and greets. I’m still in transition. But the most important thing for me getting started is getting the feeder systems going. You have to develop the young kids and get them involved. You can’t wait until they are in middle school or freshmen. You have to start them young. That much I want to do right from the start.”
Mays will officially begin his tenure June 1. He replaces Geoff Penrod, who served as interim athletic director after Josh Mohr resigned from the position in January.