By Joe Henricksen
A year ago big man Greg Mays of Crete-Monee was the ultimate project. Now he's a bonafide mid-major prospect and Division I recruit as the athletic 6-8 Mays gave coach Brian Wardle and Wisconsin-Green Bay a commitment on Wednesday.
"When it came down to it the biggest deciding factor for me was the coaching staff at Green Bay," said Mays. "Everything just clicked with them. I liked the school and really liked the facilities there."
Mays has improved his recruiting stock arguably as much as anyone in the senior class, going from a relative unknown to a top 20 player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings. In the never-ending search for big men prospects, Mays fits the characteristics any college program would welcome: size and athleticism with a big upside.
"I am thrilled with how far things have come for me," Mays admitted. "I put in a lot of hard work and I am happy it's paid off."
Crete-Monee coach Matt Ryndak has watched Mays develop over the past year and has seen a significant change in his big man's mantra.
"Greg just needed confidence," Ryndak pointed out. "A big factor in what he has done the last 8 months is he gained a belief in himself. He had some success, saw that success and he wanted more, worked harder and legitimately earned everything he has gotten."
Mays chose UW-Green Bay over Saint Louis and Boise State in the end, with interest from bigger schools of late such as DePaul and Indiana. Several mid-majors were involved, including Southern Illinois and Ball State. UW-Green Bay, however, was there from the start and made Mays a priority from the time Wardle took over as head coach.
While he remains a bit raw, Mays has made some impressive strides over the past 18 months. He was banged up a bit as a junior, missing four weeks with a fracture in his ankle, and the opportunities for him were limited. He blossomed, however, this spring and summer. Although Mays is currently out of action until December with a fractured elbow, he will be a key component for a Crete-Monee team that should be one of the best in the south suburbs.
Mays runs the floor with speed and agility, has added a much-improved face-up jumper out to 18 feet and is a terrific athletic. With the little amount of experience he has playing at a high level, his development as a player remains on fast-forward. Along with an obvious high ceiling, what is so intriguing with Mays is his frame and college-type body, which will only get bigger and stronger over time. Add in the explosiveness he possesses and there are moments when he is a true eye-opener. In time he could turn into an athletic specimen.
Wisconsin-Green Bay continues to hit the Chicago area hard and have success since Wardle took over as head coach. Wardle already has guard Terry Johnson of Chicago on campus, who transferred in from Illinois State and is sitting out this season, and has secured a commitment from point guard Keifer Sykes of Chicago Marshall. Now Wardle has what could be argued is one of the top sleepers and one of the bigger steals in the Class of 2011 by nabbing a legit big man with athleticism in Mays.