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The new old guy, Julius Mays

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Mays looks to add experience, leadership to youthful 2012-13 roster. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Mays looks to add experience, leadership to youthful 2012-13 roster. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Julius Mays isn't your typical John Calipari recruit. He is not a five-star prospect. He is not an inexperienced freshman. He is not new to the college experience.

In fact, with his transfer to Kentucky this season, Mays is already on his third collegiate team.

"I've been in a lot of situations these guys haven't been in," said Mays. "This being my third university and I've played at a high level as well, so just my experience. The situations that I've been in, I feel like bringing that to the table is very important to such a young team."

While Mays might not bring the glitz and glamour of a recently typical Kentucky freshman, he brought in because he possesses skills and intangibles that those freshmen may not. He is a shooter. He has experience playing in front of big crowds. And he is a veteran player who can be a leader on a team abundant with youth.

But he's in a unique position, one that none of the previous veterans on Calipari's Kentucky teams have experienced. He's yet to play a single game for the University of Kentucky, and in that light, he is in the same boat as the incoming freshmen.

"I'm an older guy being looked up to," said Mays. "But I'm also having to look to younger guys that have been here, so I'm not mad about it. I'm excited about it."

In the past, Calipari's Kentucky teams have had a Darius Miller, a DeAndre Liggins, or a Partick Patterson: players with tenure at the University of Kentucky and on the team.

When Mays steps on the floor for the first time in a Kentucky uniform, he will be the most experienced collegiate basketball player in the game. But right now, he has to lean on some of the returning players, in some cases guys with just one year of college basketball under their belts, to help learn Calipari's dribble-drive offense.

"I still have to learn the new system just like all of the other guys," said Mays. "It's a good feeling to have because you also have younger guys in Kyle (Wiltjer) and Ryan (Harrow) who were here a year so you can be able to look up to guys that are younger than you and have been here."  

Wiltjer is the only returning player who played significant minutes for the 2011-12 national championship team. Harrow, also a transfer, sat out last season after his arrival from North Carolina State.

For a team light on experience, that is the main area where Mays thinks he can contribute.

Mays spent his first two seasons of collegiate basketball at North Carolina State as well, where he and Harrow first made contact during Harrow's recruitment. After two seasons, Mays opted to transfer to Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. There, Mays flourished and he transformed himself into a second-team All-Conference player in the Horizon League averaging 14.4 points per game for the Raiders.

After seeing a spike in his production at Wright State and with one year of eligibility left in his college career, Mays was faced with a tough decision. He could have stayed at the place that helped elevate his game, or look at other options to see if he could take his game to even greater heights.

"It was difficult," said Mays of his decision. "I met a lot of great people at Wright State, and even leaving North Carolina State was tough as well too. I met a lot of great people in both places, but at the end of the day, I felt like I had to make a decision that was the best for me."

He decided his best interest was to come to Lexington, Ky., to play for Calipari and the defending national champions.

The opportunity to play against some of the best competition in the country that Kentucky schedules against every year, as well as to go up against arguably the best collection of talent in the college game immediately appealed to Mays. And he's already beginning to see some early results.

"That's why I came here," Mays said. "I wanted the best of Julius Mays to be brought out, and I felt the only way to do that was to come play with the best of the best on a daily basis. I feel like the best of me has come out."

Mays' focus now is to make sure he uses his experiences and leadership to help bring out the very best of this 2012-13 Kentucky roster. While Mays appreciates what last year's team did - the allure of a national championship did play a part in leading him to Kentucky - he knows with basically a brand-new roster that this team is going to be much different than last season's.

"My main thing is to just kind of come to this team and build our own identity," said Mays. "I'm very respectful and high on what last year's team did, but this year's team is a new team. We've got to come and build our own identity and not just be based on last year's team."

And so far, Mays is making his mark.

While Mays is absorbing his new surroundings, new teammates, new school and new offense like a sponge, his teammates are wringing him out to soak in some knowledge from the new old guy.

"He can shoot really well and I knew that from when I was back in high school," said Harrow. "He's a veteran, so he's really leading us too. We're learning a lot from him."

If there's one thing that his teammates can take from Mays, it's his wisdom. Not having won a national championship before, like some of his new teammates have, he hopes this year's team gets the same opportunity in the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta, Ga. However, while the expectations to get back there this season are real, Mays understands that this team has to respect the process.

"I think it's real important for everyone to realize you don't win a national championship in one game," said Mays. "It takes a whole season, then the conference tournament, then the whole NCAA Tournament. We've got to work our way from the beginning, build our identity, and appreciate what last year's team did, but do our own thing."

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