“Thank goodness he’s on this team because holds it together.” — John Calipari
“The greatest thing about Mays is he doesn’t even have to make shots. He’s defending; he’s passionate; he’s showing leadership … and if he doesn’t make shots, it’s easy to leave him on the court.” — John Calipari
“Julius, without him, we don’t win today.” — John Calipari
“There isn’t another person like Julius. He’s a great leader and a big brother to me, he’s like my best friend. He is just always there for encouragement when things aren’t going our way. He is always the person that pulls me aside to get my head back right.” — Archie Goodwin
“Julius is incredible. On and off the court, he is always there to help us when we are in need. We look to him for guidance. He always knows the right things to say.” — Alex Poythress
“Julius is that guy that we can count on when we need a stop or we need a play to be made. He just makes the game so much easier for everybody else.” — Archie Goodwin
Julius. Julius. Julius.
We heard his name mentioned over and over again, after wins and after losses, almost always positive. The graduate transfer came to Kentucky from Wright State late last spring for one season, to provide depth in the backcourt behind Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, and to have one shot at a title in his last ride in college basketball. Not a lot was expected of the undersized guard upon his rival in Lexington, but little did UK fans know, Julius Mays would become the catalyst for Kentucky throughout the 2012-13 season.
Think back to how many times we said, “Nerlens Noel and Julius Mays left it all on the court today.” And when Nerlens went down, the postgame chatter became, “Where would this team be without Uncle Julius?”
He scored, he pump faked, he defended, he hustled, he pump faked some more, he coached, and, most importantly, he led a group of teenagers when they were desperate for guidance. The season is over now and the question remains, “Where would this team be without Uncle Julius?”
Of course, things didn’t turn out anywhere near the way Mays or anyone in Big Blue Nation had hoped, and that’s why it’s so much harder to see him go. Mays deserves more than one disappointing season at Kentucky. He deserves more than a one-game stint in the SEC tournament thanks to a loss to Vanderbilt. He deserves more than a first round NIT loss to Robert Morris. Unfortunately, that’s how his short career in blue concluded.
After last night’s game, the last of his career, Mays told reporters he wouldn’t change a thing about his decision to transfer to Kentucky, even if he had known how the season would go. He still would’ve been a Cat, he says.
And though he’s leaving empty-handed, without the hardware he set out to win, I hope the love and appreciation he earned from Big Blue Nation over ten months is an adequate consolation prize.
Thank you, Uncle Julius.