Athletic power forward James Mays
showed some promise in his sophomore year, but his season was ended before conference play even began due to academic ineligibility. Now a junior, Mays has returned to the court, and hes been a huge reason why Clemson is off to an 18-2 start. Mays stands 69 with long arms and a solid frame while boasting very impressive athleticism to boot, which makes him a prospect the NBA will consider almost by default.
Overall, he is a pretty raw player, but due to his physical tools and his energetic style of play, hes able to contribute a lot to his team, and he has the potential to become a very interesting player if he improves on his skill set. Offensively, Mays shows some flashes in virtually all areas, but he lacks a skill that can be consistently relied on. In this game, Mays took a few spot-up shots from around 18-20 feet, but he missed them all. He shows pretty decent form on his jump shot, but he doesnt hit it consistently and he could use a little more elevation as well. Mays ball-handling could use some work, but he showed in this game that he can take one or two dribbles to the hoop in a straight line when the path is there for him. He scored on dribble-drives on two occasions in this game, but both occasions were with his defender out of position and neither required him to change direction.
Mays post game is very raw at this stage of development, but one thing he does very well is establish position down low. He fights hard for his position in the paint, and this often gives him opportunities to get the ball around five feet from the basket. Unfortunately, Mays doesnt consistently capitalize on these opportunities, not having the greatest touch and not possessing a strong array of post moves. He shows flashes of the ability to create his own shot here, but oftentimes he just goes straight up with the ball, and his predictability led to his shot being blocked frequently in this game. Mays needs to work on adjusting his shots when defenders are contesting him, and just being more creative with his moves.
On one occasion in this game, Mays did make an extremely expressive move from about 10 feet away from the basket. Catching the ball with his back to the basket on the mid-block, Mays used his left foot as a pivot while faking a hook shot across the lane, only to quickly come back in the other direction with an explosive drop step around his man, making one big stride towards the hoop for a lay-up.
Mays grabbed 15 rebounds in this game, 10 of which came on the offensive end, though those numbers are partly deceptive. Most of Mays offensive rebounds came in batches of two or three, when his shot was being blocked back into his face. Oftentimes he proceeded to go up two or three times while being successively blocked, sometimes not even finishing the final putback attempt. To Mays credit, he does a good job using his length and athleticism to track down rebounds when hes not in position, and he did score on a few of his putbacks on the night. When in position on the defensive end, Mays usually blocks out his man to pull in the rebound.
Mays shows solid passing for a power forward, making a few nice assists and passes that led to open shots in this game. He showed the ability to feed the post from the perimeter, hit cutters, and feed from post to post as well. His passes are strong and crisp, and he seems to have a decent eye for the open man. Hes averaging 2.5 assists on the season, which isnt bad for a power forward.
Defensively, Mays is very active, playing a major role in Clemsons full-court press, using his length and athleticism to disrupt the opposition from baseline to baseline. He constantly is forcing tough passes, deflecting passes, and also picking off the occasional pass. In the half-court, Mays struggles a bit on the defensive end, lacking in awareness and making some bad decisions. In this game, Mays was often defending his man straight up in the post, but hed always try and reach out from behind to pick off the entry pass when there was no one on his team behind him to pick up his man. He didnt successfully break up a single pass, but his over-aggressiveness led to about four or five wide-open dunks or lay-ups for the opposition. Mays also was very inconsistent hedging on pick-and-rolls, on one occasion standing with his hands at his side while the ball-handler drove right past him to the basket, and on another not stepping up on the shooter who was given a wide-open jump shot. His defensive awareness could use a lot of work, and its clearly exposed when the opposition settles into half-court sets.
From what weve been told by more than one source, Mays is openly discussing entering his name in this years draft. As a junior, he can test the waters this year to gauge what NBA teams think of him, without risking his college eligibility. Although hes made some big strides in what is essentially his first full season of college basketball, its hard not to think that he has a lot to gain by returning for his senior year. The natural tools he possesses cannot be denied and will surely give him every opportunity needed to make an NBA team when the time is right, but his all-around skill-level and court savvy still leave a lot to be desired. Scouts will surely be monitoring his progress as the year moves on, though, since Clemson has the makings of a team that can cause some serious damage in the NCAA tournament should they be able to keep up their strong play.