Photo courtesy Univ. of Kentucky Sports Information Department

As a graduate sudent, new Whitko Athletic Director Julius Mays played college basketball at then-defending national champion Kentucky during the 2012-13 season.
Photo courtesy Univ. of Kentucky Sports Information Department As a graduate sudent, new Whitko Athletic Director Julius Mays played college basketball at then-defending national champion Kentucky during the 2012-13 season.
SOUTH WHITLEY – After playing big-time college basketball, first at North Carolina State and finishing his master’s degree at Kentucky, Julius Mays finds himself going from playing in front of thousands of fans in Lexington’s Rupp Arena to being the new athletic director at Whitko. The population of the entire school district is somewhere around a fifth of Rupp’s 23,500 capacity.

The Marion native has had a long and winding road so far in life, but it’s about accomplishing goals rather than reaching destinations.

“I never had a written plan. Obviously, I have goals and there are stepping stones to achieving those goals,” Mays said. “I was welcomed with open arms at my alma mater (Marion High School) and I was greatly appreciative of that opportunity.

“But there comes a time when you have to take a step forward to start achieving your goals. One of those was to be a head athletic director, and there was an opportunity in South Whitley.

“I think there’s a lot of potential at Whitko, and it’s a place where I can go and grow and help them build as a community and as an athletic department.”

As anyone who goes into any role in education, Mays has a love for kids that goes back to when he was one.

“I’ve had that heart my whole life, even during my playing career, with all the basketball camps, individual training and coaching; it’s been my passion,” explained Mays. “I have a lot of nieces and nephews, so I’ve always been around kids. And if not for the mentors I had when I was a kid, people who poured in to me, I wouldn’t be where I am.

“I love to work with kids and I want to help them get some of the same opportunities I had.”

Mays can count his coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, among his biggest fans.

"Julius was a tremendous leader for our team in 2012-13. He came here because he want to be challenged and grow, and to be honest, it was a challenging year for all of us,” Calipari said  

“Coming off the national championship, we had a lot of young guys and then we lost Nerlens Noel in February. We battled a lot of adversity but Julius never wavered. He was steady in his approach, worked hard, and led both on and off the floor. I’m not sure what we would have done without him.

“Julius is a driven, grounded, family man. I don’t know that Julius knew that this is what he wanted to do when he was playing basketball for us but I’m so happy he’s found his calling. I’m happy for him."

As part of that calling, Mays doesn’t want to limit his work at Whitko to just the high school teams. He wants to make sure the future for Wildcat teams is as bright as possible.

“I think it’s very important you get (a feeder system) in place. I don’t think you can have the success you want at the high school level without a feeder system in place, especially in a smaller community. They don’t have the outlets like YMCA’s and Boys and Girls Clubs that have leagues like the bigger cities may have,” Mays said.

“It’s important to not only get your varsity coaches and players involved, but get the entire community excitement thing going, so you can have that success at the high-school level.

While life around the globe appears to be taking baby steps toward normalcy, Mays didn’t want to wait for an “all clear” on the next career step, even if there isn’t yet 100% certainty there will be fall sports  in Indiana schools. He decided to apply for the job anyway, potential roadblocks and all.

“I think it’s going to be challenging just because you don’t know. There’s a lot that we just don’t know for sure yet.  The only thing we can do is control what you can control,” the new AD said. “You gotta make the most of it, try to be involved and as excited as much as you can with the circumstances.

“It sucks, and I hate it for the kids because these are times you never get back. When kids gets older, they should be able to look back and have a lot of great memories. It sucks that these kids are being kept from making these memories, but we have to do what we can and make it the most positive situation we can.”

Mays and his wife Terah aren’t waiting for the official start date of June 1 to make plans to move to the Whitko community. The couple would like to be settled in time to get 7-year-old daughter Laiah in school and get 3-year-old Londyn and 10-month old Julius Jr. used to a new home. In the interim, Mays will commute from Marion, where he was the assistant AD.

For any Kentucky fans in the area, Mays will always happily discuss his role in Wildcat basketball.

“When you pick like a place like that to play, that’s a part of what you take on. You have die-hard fans and those who have never had the experience of playing at that level,” he said. “I’m always open to talking about those days; it never gets old. I love those conversations. It was one of the best times of my life, and I’m always willing to share that with anyone.”