By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
When LSU takes on Southern Miss on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., keep an eye on freshman point guard Skylar Mays.
In his first official outing as a Tiger, Mays scored 10 points and dished out 6 assists without a single turnover. Those numbers, good as they are, don’t do justice to what was a fantastic debut.
LSU fans are going to love Mays, who isn’t a finished product by any means but arrives as ready, offensively, as any point guard the Tigers have had since Randy Livingston.
“We were pleased, but not surprised because he’s a guy that we expect a lot from and we know that he’s capable of delivering for us,” Jones said after the win. “He’s passionate about it and that’s the beauty of watching him grow each practice and each game and just taking it in. We know he had unbelievable basketball IQ and it’s always on display with him,”
His shot and defense are still works in progress, but against Wofford, Mays put on a clinic in the pick and roll, which will quickly become one of LSU’s go to sets.
The numbers speak for themselves: LSU ran, to completion, eight Mays pick and rolls against Wofford, per stats provided by Synergy Sports. The Tigers scored 16 points on those plays — an incredible rate of return. Because of his handle, athleticism, vision, and IQ, Mays is a dangerous ball handler in the pick and roll.
There are many ways to attack a defense in the pick and roll, depending on what the defense offers. Mays saw and exploited many of the looks Wofford threw his way.
1. Use the Screen
Duop Reath sets the screen to Mays left, and Mays takes it. The screen hits, so Reath’s man has to help on Mays.
As Reath rolls open, Wayde Sims’ man helps from the backside while Reath’s man recovers. This opens up Sims, a capable 3-point shooter.
Mays freezes the defense with a ball and eye fake, then skips the ball to Sims for 3. Classic quarterback play.
Here’s an even better example of Mays using the screen. This time, the man guarding the screen hedges high. Mays gets inside of him with some nifty ball handling, then uses his body to shield him from recovering to Epps. Again, with a man rolling unguarded to the rim, Sims’ man has to help, leaving him wide open. Mays kicks it to him and blocks his man with his body to leave Sims wide open.
One more, from the second half. Not sure how he fits the ball into this window — and with his off hand, too.
2. Refuse Screen
Here, Duop Reath comes to set a flat ball screen. This is tough to defend because the man guarding Reath doesn’t really know which way he’s going to set the screen, so he can’t provide too much help. Same principle applies to the on ball defender. He’s not sure which way Mays wants to go, so he sort of forces him left.
Mays uses a simple hesitation/change-of-pace move to get by his man and finishes craftily at the rim with his left. Seems simple, but not many freshmen point guards are this comfortable going to their weak hand and finishing with it, too.
This one’s even better. Mays gets to the screen, and when his defender commits to beating it, uses his deadly spin move to change direction and get into the paint. His ball fake and finish from there are further evidence of his craft.
3. Split the Screen
Now that Mays has hit Wofford twice with the pick and roll, they’re hedging hard, hoping to steer him higher up the floor and away from the paint.
But they hedge too hard, and Mays uses his ball handling and strength to split the defenders, a dangerous but deadly move, when executed properly.
Here’s one from later in the game with a less aggressive hedge but a more impressive finish by Mays. Yes, he can get up.
So this isn’t a pick and roll, but it’s a great example of his IQ. He didn’t get an assist for this play. I’d argue he should. Sort of like when a quarterback in the NFL gets a completion and a reception when he catches a batted ball.
5. The Next Step
Eventually, teams will start going underneath the screen against Mays in the pick and roll. He’s going to have to show that he can make them pay by hitting jumpers off the dribble. In practice, Mays has been knocking down those types of shots with good consistency. If you can carry that over into the games, it’s going to make him in the LSU offense much more dangerous when he’s operating in the pick and roll.