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From the Pressbox: Transfer Mays embracing Kentucky experience

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"Not many guys get to experience being one of the brand new guys and be a veteran guy being looked at as one of the leaders. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoy being a (veteran) but also a guy who is learning every day like everyone else."

That is the unique dual role that Wright State transfer Julius Mays is playing in his only season at UK.

Mays had other options that might have assured him of more minutes and opportunities for points but he also knew the best path to getting a championship ring was to take the tougher road of competing for playing time on a national title contender at Kentucky.

"I haven't been worked this hard since I've been in college. I feel like I've been pushed like I've never been pushed before and I've liked every minute of it," Mays said at media day.

"I had a lot of offers and opportunities to go places and be a starter immediately or have a greater role coming in and be a scorer but from my decision, I wanted to be able to compete with the best of the best and have the best chance to win and I feel that Kentucky gave me the best opportunity to do that," Mays noted.

We'll get our first look at Mays and his teammates against outside competition this Thursday night, when the Cats play their first preseason game.

Mays is embracing coach Calipari's mantra that nothing is guaranteed for any player on this team.

"(He said) 'You have the same opportunity as everyone else who steps on this court,' and I really like that when he told me that. If it's not starting and it's coming off the bench, I am fine with that and I just want to be able to compete, help my team out and have a chance to win," said Mays.

In his media interviews, Mays comes off as unassuming and classy, but there is clearly a quiet confidence there as well, such as when he was asked about the difficulty of scoring around the basket against the likes of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein.

"When I first got here, it was more difficult but the guys will tell you I find ways to get it over them," Mays said with a smile. "I'm not the most athletic guy but I've always known how to put the ball in the hoop ever since I was younger. I shoot the ball well but I also score the ball well. And when that brings attention to me, Coach Cal says I won't have to worry about being double-teamed."

The book on Mays is that he brings a keen shooting eye from the perimeter but Mays says that is something that he has developed over time, with lots of hard work.

"You cannot just snap your fingers, come in the gym and become a shooter. It's developed over time. When I was younger, I couldn't really shoot the ball, I was more of a driver, but as you stop growing and might not be as athletic as another guy, you have to pick up something else that you do really well, and that is when you start being able to shoot the ball really well," Mays explained. "It's a lot of repetitions. Not being a guy that changes the shot all the time, but just coming into the gym and shooting the same shot every time, just starting out slow and speeding it up."

Mays says the UK coaches have not made many tweaks to his shooting form but they have worked with him on getting better at coming off screens and scoring against the more athletic defenders that he's likely to see more often, playing for a team like Kentucky.

"Shooting guard" is the label that goes on Mays but he says he's not a one-trick pony.

"I really define myself as a combo guard. I am not a point guard, I am not strictly a two-guard. I feel that I can play both," he said. "If it's distributing the ball, I can do that. If I am needed to score, I can do that. My ability to shoot the ball, I feel that I can stretch defenses out."

Mays has competed against enough big-name schools that he knew what to expect in terms of facing a greater on-court challenge when he came to Kentucky.  But what he didn't know as much about was the passion of the Wildcat fan base.

"I feel like, until you live it, then you don't know anything about it. Obviously I heard about how crazy the fans would be but until you experience it and live it...I have never seen anything like it," he acknowledged, adding that he is quite comfortable with it, too.  "I am a people person and I love seeing people smile and if me taking a picture or signing an autograph (makes that happen), I am all about it."

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