Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has landed a commitment from a transfer player with plenty of playing experience to join his young 2012-13 team.
Wright State senior combo guard Julius Mays told CatsIllustrated.com Sunday evening he called Calipari earlier in the day to inform him he'd picked the Wildcats and plans to enroll at UK upon graduation from Wright State.
"It's exciting obviously," said Mays, who chose the Wildcats over Purdue. "I'm looking to go work hard and bring some leadership, just whatever they need me to do honestly. I'm all about winning and not about myself. I'm ready to get there and start working."
Mays, who is 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds, will be a fifth-year senior with one year of eligibility remaining. He said he has chosen to pursue a master's degree in a sports leadership program that is offered at UK but not at Wright State and said academic pursuits were a key factor in his decision.
By studying a graduate program not offered at his undergraduate institution, he's expected to be eligible to play immediately next season.
He said he must also take the GRE graduate-school exam in the coming weeks.
Mays visited UK unofficially in the past two weeks and officially visited home-state Purdue on Friday and Saturday.
"I came home and slept on it, thought about it, and I called Coach Cal, and told him I'd love to come play for him," he said.
Mays said Calipari "was happy and excited for me and the opportunity I'm going to be presented with. It's all excitement from both of us."
He said he looks forward to playing with the defending national champions every day in practice.
"It's the best of the best," he said. "I want to compete with the best of the best. Growing up as a kid that's all I've wanted to do. Having an opportunity to do that and play for Coach Cal, is really an opportunity of a lifetime and is really hard to pass up."
Mays, a Marion, Ind., native, averaged a team-high 14.1 points per game last season at Wright State. Capable of playing point guard and shooting guard and a strong outside shooter, Mays would bolster UK's depth in an overhauled backcourt that will also feature North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow and five-star freshman Archie Goodwin.
"I'm excited," Mays said. "That's obviously two very talented guys. We all bring something different to the table. It'll be exciting. We'll have a lot of fun and hopefully get a lot of wins."
Mays said he chose UK's sports leadership graduate program because he has always wanted to work in sports once his playing career is over, "and I thought it would be a great fit."
"(The decision) had a lot to do with academics, and they had a degree I wanted to go into that Wright State didn't have," he said. "Plus, to be presented with the opportunity to play for Coach Cal."
Mays spent two seasons at North Carolina State before transferring to Wright State. (He hosted Harrow on an official visit to N.C. State when Harrow was a high school recruit.) He sat out two seasons ago with the Raiders as a redshirt, then played this season, becoming the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and a second-team all-conference selection.
Mays shot 42.8 percent from three-point range last season and 83.2 percent on free throws. His shooting could be essential on a team that's lost deep threats Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.
He also averaged 2.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds and made 41 steals in 30 games.
Mays had some big scoring games in 2011-12 - scoring at least 20 points 10 times, including a season-high 33 points and a school-record 19 made free throws against Illinois Chicago.
He had 28 points and a running, game-winning three at the buzzer to defeat Idaho. (Video below.)
Mays is finishing up his undergraduate coursework at Wright State and expects to be done in about 3-4 weeks.
Mays said he has no expectation or preference of whether he plays primarily point guard or off guard at UK.
"I've played them both my whole life," he said. "If I'm forced to play the point guard, or if I'm forced to play the 2-guard, whatever Coach wants me to do and whatever my teammates need me to do is what I'll do. I know I can play both positions."
Mays said Purdue was also a strong option for him.
"I liked their coaching staff," Mays said. "They're great guys. I like the team. They've got a great group of guys. I'd like to thank the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to come on a visit and showing an interest in me."
Michigan State, Illinois and Pittsburgh were also under consideration.