Skylar Mays and the 15-Passenger Van That Shaped His Loyalty Forever
When tough decisions arise, Skylar Mays remembers the first team he’s ever been a part of, his family. His mornings on their 15-passenger van a decade ago helped shape his decision-making and loyalty even to this day.
David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images
By: Clement Gibson
ATLANTA — It’s another Sunday morning and a young Skylar Mays walks onto the 15-passenger van with the first team he’s ever known. His father, Stan Sr., drove the van and mother, Shannon, led him and his seven siblings, Stan Jr., Sydney, Spencer, Sierra, Sonae, Soleah and Seth to church. Sunday was an easier day for the Mays family because there was only one destination, unlike the rest of the week.
Monday through Friday brought new challenges as the kids grew older and attended elementary, middle, and high school. Nevertheless, his parents made sure Skylar and his siblings were taken care of even with their busy schedules as a doctor and nurse. Watching his parents put their family first every morning taught him the importance of loyalty, a virtue he continues to live by.
“My parents surprised me and sent a care package…”
Mays wanted to play in the NBA one day, but his focus was split with football, Louisiana’s most popular sport. In ninth grade, he chose hoops for good – a decision that resulted in back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015 for University High School in Baton Rouge.
Winning on a big stage drew the attention of Findlay Prep, a high school known for producing NBA talent. Transferring would bring Mays one step closer to his dream of making the NBA but over a million steps away from the first team he was ever a part of.
After consulting with his family and promising to one day return, he moved to Henderson, Nevada. “Going from a household where there’s 10 people who I’ve known my entire life, to a household with people I don’t know taught me to build relationships,” said Mays.
One way the Baton Rogue native tried to build relationships was sharing his home-cooked meals. “My parents surprised me and sent a care package of frozen gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and other Louisiana dishes. I tried to share it with my teammates, but they said no, because it smelled and was stinking up the house,” Mays chuckled and reminisced.
His teammates didn’t like his dishes off the court but loved them on the court as he averaged 5.3 assists, 10.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game at Findlay Prep. Mays called the experience a blessing and was ecstatic to return to Baton Rouge and fulfil his promise to his family.
He joined the Louisiana State University Tigers in 2016 under Head Coach Johnny Jones, who recruited him as a freshman in high school. Along with his relationship with Jones, Mays credits upperclassmen like Aaron Epps and Duop Reath for helping him make a smooth transition into a new basketball team, and Ben Simmons for hosting him during his official visit.
The hometown kid started at point guard in 25-of-the-31 games his freshman season and finished with the 10th highest assist average in the league. Mays looked forward to an even better sophomore campaign with Coach Jones, but the duo did not get a second stint.
Jones was fired after the Tiger’s finished the season with a 10-21 record. Mays questioned whether he should stay or leave to join his third team in three years. In the end, his loyalty prevailed, and he remained a Tiger.
He followed up with a better sophomore season and joined Coach Will Wade’s two-point guard system which led to a 18-15 record. Mays started all 35 games his junior season, made the Sweet 16 and All-SEC second team. Now it was time to test the waters.
“That’s not something to go all the way in for...”
Mays wanted to see how he was viewed on the next level, so he entered his name into the 2019 NBA draft. He worked out for scouts and was told he had a nearly 40 percent chance of being selected in the later half of the draft. “That’s [40 percent] not something to go all the way in for when I had the opportunity to go back to school, further prove myself and get my college degree,” said Mays.
He returned for a final season and earned All-SEC first team and CoSIDA Basketball Academic All-American of the Year, graduated in May 2019, and entered the 2020 NBA draft where he was selected 50th overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
Mays signed a two-way contract with the Hawks and the College Park Skyhawks and is ready to begin a new chapter once again. In this chapter, he’s playing the veteran role as the only player on the Summer League team to play in a NBA game for the Hawks. He’s passing his experience down to current rookies, Sharife Cooper and Jalen Johnson and leads the team in plus-minus and minutes played in four Summer League games.
Regardless of the uniform, team or coach, Mays continues to live by the famous quote from Oscar Wilde, “Some people bring happiness wherever they go or whenever they go. I want to be one of those guys.” Hometown or not, one thing is for certain; when he walks onto the vehicle, you know he’ll put his team first, just like his parents did for him.