LSU senior Skylar Mays doesn't know how he'll feel Saturday when he takes the court one final time in the PMAC as a member of the purple and gold. As a four-year starter, Mays' legacy is one of gradual progression on the floor and off.
What makes Mays' four-year journey at LSU so special is its relatability, a legacy of perseverance and hard work that has had its fair share of ups and downs along the way. He came to the Tigers from just down the road at University High as a bright-eyed two-star recruit in 2016.
That first season was tough on Mays as the Tigers started a respectable 8-3 in non-conference action but would close the season 2-16 in SEC play. Mays started 25 of the 31 games he played as a freshman, averaging 8.3 points per game and 3.6 assists a contest.
It was for those early failures that coach Will Wade heaped a ton of credit and praise on former coach Johnny Jones. It's difficult to play a freshman, much less start him in over 20 games. Wade said that freshman season was invaluable for Mays' development on the court and as a leader.
"As a freshman, there's a lot of mistakes that you have to work through and because of that, he was able to grow, he was able to improve," Wade said. "You can't get to 1,600 career points if you sit as a freshman."
"I just got off the phone with coach [Johnny] Jones maybe 20 minutes ago and after reflecting for a few minutes, just thanking him for believing in me and kind of giving me the keys from day one," Mays said.
Mays went on to average 11.3 points as a sophomore and 13.6 points as a junior, starting in 65 games between those two seasons. The cherry on top has been his senior year where he's averaged 16 points, five rebounds and three assists, one of only six players in LSU history to average those numbers.
His remarkable consistency on the court has helped him become the only player in LSU history to record 1,500 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals for a career.
"Just little things like the blessing of being able to play in every game. Some guys don't even get to play every single game," Mays said. "I'm just always trying to do the right thing and have a routine so I can be consistent. I feel like if you do the same thing every day you can expect results and I've tried to live by that as an athlete and in life."
Mays has lived his life like that not only on the court but in his studies as well. At this point, it's a well known fact he plans on attending medical school after his basketball career.
A switch to pre-med kinesiology wiped out 30 hours of credit Mays had accumulated as an initial pre-med biology major. It took him two years to make up those lost credit hours and while the medical field is in his future, Wade made sure to point out that his basketball career is far from over.
“The whole Skylar is going to be a doctor thing is a nice story but Skylar is a really good basketball player and is going to have a long career,” Wade said. “He’s going to make a lot of money playing basketball. Medical school’s going to be on hold. He’s going to make a great doctor and I’d let him operate on me but he’s going to have a 10-12 year NBA career first.”
Mays is currently projected to be a second round pick in the 2020 draft but even if he goes undrafted, Wade said he’ll make a team because of his unique skill set and basketball IQ.
“He’s going to stick, even if he goes undrafted, because of his character and his work ethic,” Wade said.
Before Mays can worry about what his professional future holds, helping his team finish off 2020 the right way is his primary concern. Mays takes great pride in the fact that he's helped build this program up from the rubble the last few years.
"I'm proud to be a part of the jumpstart of this thing and I see this program making huge strides long after I'm gone," Mays said. "We've got a great leader here right now in coach Wade and the coaching staff. He recruits great guys that care about winning. That's a recipe for great things to come."
Through all the trials and tribulations Mays has been through these last four years, finishing his final season on the right note is what means most to him. Whether it’s in the first round of the NCAA tournament or the Final Four, Mays just wants to know he left it all out on the floor.
"It's been a great experience for me at the end of the day and I'm just so happy with all the relationships that I've made," Mays said. "All the people that I've come across and all the support I've gotten over these past four years.
“The best part is that I don’t have any regrets. I came to work every day. I can look in the mirror and say that. I know I’ve approached the game the right way. It’s brought a lot of great moments, a lot of great experiences, and things that I’ll never forget."