A-Mays-ing Grace: Player embodies the basketball spirit


Joe Macias

Sports Editor


At first glance, people may not think that CSU Bakersfield’s 6-foot 4-inch senior forward Kevin Mays leads the team in rebounding.

However, through his tough play Mays is helping the Roadrunners to their best season since moving to Division I.

“I always had a toughness in me but when I first noticed (I was good at basketball) my uncle was playing at Paris Junior College and they had two recruits. There were two high level recruits and they wanted us to play two-on-two.

“That’s when basketball just became my main focus. After I played against those guys and I competed really well they wound up not giving the guy that I was guarding they wound up not giving him a scholarship because they were like there is no way an eighth grader should have been able to guard him like that. So that’s probably like the turning point when I really liked my confidence and started to believe in my game.”

Mays is currently averaging 12.6 points per game and eight rebounds per game, which is third in the Western Athletic Conference.

Teammate and redshirt-junior guard said that Mays is a different player on the court.

“He’s a dog on the court,” said Airington. “Off the court Kev I’d say is a sweetheart.”

Mays said he looked up to his uncle but didn’t know it at the time.

“At the time I didn’t even really know that I looked up to him as a role model but he was just one of the best backyard players or the best playground dudes growing up like as our younger generation. So I kind of took a lot of my toughness from him as far as playing against him when he’d come back from college and that definitely made me who I am.”

Mays was born in Queens, N.Y. and started playing basketball when he was about eight years old, but he didn’t take basketball serious until he was 12 or 13 years old.

“Seventh or eighth grade (was) probably my first (Amateur Athletic Union),” said Mays. “I want to say Dwayne Johnson or Antwan Tutt (were) my first AAU coaches and they were the ones who really taught me the game from a younger age.”

Mays went to St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wis. He was named player of the year in his first three seasons with the Lancers and in his senior year, he averaged 19 points per game, 12 rebounds per game, two steals and led the Lancers to a 20-4 season.

Mays then went to University of Maryland Eastern Shore for his freshman year before going to Odessa College in Odessa, Texas where he averaged 15 points per game and 12 rebounds per game.

When it was time to decide where to go next, Mays’ said that CSUB assistant coach Marc Tsu played a major role in his decision to transfer to CSUB.

“Coming out of the (junior college) that I was in, I had a lot of people recruiting me that wanted me to sign and I just prolonged the process because it was a lot to deal with,” Mays said. “But throughout the process coach Tsu was real consistent. He made me feel comfortable throughout the process because it can be a scary process, so he made me feel real comfortable about you know looking out for me. It just seemed like the best fit. That’s mainly what it came down to.”

Last year, Mays averaged nine points and eight rebounds per game, which led the WAC in rebounding last season. He also made the WAC All-Defensive team.

This year the Roadrunners are 17-7 and 7-2 in conference. CSUB is currently tied for second in the WAC.

Mays’ decision of coming to CSUB has both helped him develop on the court and off the court.

“I’ve improved my game the most I’ve ever improved in my life since I’ve been here,” said Mays. “Coaches just really emphasize work. We work countless hours and put a lot of work in and my jump shot started clicking. It’s like way better than it has ever felt in my life. As far as in the classroom, great tutors. A lot of that goes out to head coach Rod Barnes. He’s definitely big on you as a person and academics before basketball, and you don’t find that too often in a head basketball coach. Only way that you wouldn’t be successful is if you wanted to rebel against what they are doing here.”

Barnes said that Mays is a once in a lifetime player.

“There’s not many times you get a kid like Kevin,” said Barnes. “He cares about winning and he cares about his teammates. Regardless of who we bring in and how talented we are we’re going to miss Kevin Mays.”