Danville’s Mays signs to play basketball at UT Martin

Published 2:56 pm Monday, May 15, 2023


Contributing Writer

Love Mays has seen her future, and she likes the look of it.

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In the short term, there is the opportunity to play college basketball at the highest level. In the long term, there is the opportunity to position herself for a life beyond the game.

Mays, the Danville standout who changed both her game and her personality over the past three seasons, unlocked both of those doors Friday when she signed a letter-of-intent to play for the University of Tennessee-Martin.

“Being able to continue my basketball career along with getting my education, it’s great, and I’m so blessed to have that opportunity,” Mays said.

Mays accepted the only Division I offer she received because, she said, it offered her the best chance to do both of those things.

First, UT Martin gives her an outlet to do everything she wants to do when it comes to basketball.

“I want to play against hard competition, I want to challenge myself, I want to be able to experience new things, I want to travel. I want to improve my own game with great players by my side on my team, so being D-I is a great opportunity for me to do that,” she said.

In addition, the school’s offer gives her the chance to get a college degree without spending any money or incurring any debt, and she said that was every bit as important to her.

“To get a free education is what all these athletes strive for ultimately,” she said. “We want to play the sport that we love, we want to continue playing, but to get the free education … so you can make a good life for yourself, that was the biggest thing for me.”

Mays was the leader of a Danville team that set a school record for victories in a 30-3 campaign. The 5-7 guard was voted the 12th Region Girls Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year and The Advocate-Messenger 2022-23 Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 21.8 points per game to lead an offense that ranked first in the 12th Region and 17th in the state in team scoring with 63.0 points per game.

She ranked third in the 12th Region and 18th in the state in scoring and led the Lady Admirals in assists (5.5 per game) and was second on the team in rebounding (5.5).

Mays was her team’s most valuable player in the recent Kentucky-Ohio All-Star game, where Danville coach Judie Mason said “she was the best player on the floor,” and she will play for the Kentucky All-Stars in the Kentucky-Indiana series next month.

Mason said she believes Mays can play right away for a UT Martin team that returns six of the top eight players from a team that went 13-17 last season.

“I think she’s going to play right off the bat,” Mason said. “Love has played against good competition, and I think she’ll get some playing time.”

Mays is the second Danville player to sign a collegiate letter-of-intent this year. Teammate Desiree Tandy signed with Thomas More, an NAIA powerhouse, earlier this month.

Mays follows two other area players who recently played for UT Martin. Former Mercer County stars Seygan Robins and Emma Davis each played three seasons for the Skyhawks, and Mays said she has talked or texted with both of them about their experiences there.

Mays, who was a three-year starter at Danville after transferring from Mercer County in 2020, was voted the regional player of the year by the regional coaches association. She committed to UT Martin shortly after the end of the season and is expected to sign with the Skyhawks next month.

She also said she felt at home both on campus and in Martin during her official visit earlier this spring, but she said she knew it was where she wanted to be when she talked with Skyhawks coach Kevin McMillan.

“The moment that I knew that I wanted to be there was when he gave me a little example of how he would be during practice,” Mays said. “He (got in) my face and our foreheads were connected and he was talking to me, noses touching, eye contact, and right then and there I knew he was the coach for me.”

McMillan and most of the other coaches recruiting Mays didn’t see much of her in person until late in her senior season, and Mason said they saw a player who became more determined than ever after one of the low points of the year, when Mays scored only five points in a 70-35 win over Portland Christian in the All “A” Classic after falling into foul trouble.

“It was like the light came on after that,” Mason said. “She was like, ‘If I’m going to play (in college) I’ve got to get in the gym. I’ve got to work.’ She went into the lab and started working and doing what she needed to do. Every game she just got better and better — and faster and faster, it seemed like.”

Mays spent three seasons at Danville after transferring from Mercer County following her sophomore year, and Mason said the player underwent a complete transformation during that time.

“She would not even speak in the hallways or in the locker room or anything,” Mason said. “People (told) her she couldn’t play for me, and it was something for me and her to prove people wrong, and I think we both did.”

Mays reclassified after the 2020-21 season, taking advantage of the extra year made available during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she said that year helped make her a better player and gave her the opportunity to lead the team and helped bring her goal into focus.

“It was really from that moment on,” she said, “that I thought, ‘This is something that I can do if I try my hardest, if I work in the gym every day.”