After taking his name out of the 2019 NBA draft some 18 months ago, Skylar Mays used the intel he got from the teams he visited to set his sights on the future.
As a brilliant student and three-time Academic All-American, Mays doesn't waste any opportunity to learn, whether it's in the classroom or on the basketball court.
That served LSU's All-Southeastern Conference shooting guard well in his senior season and Wednesday night — late Wednesday night.
A Baton Rouge native who starred at University High School, Mays was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the COVID-delayed 2020 NBA draft. He went 50th overall in the 60-pick draft.
Like it was for former LSU teammate and backcourt mate Tremont Waters, who went 51st a year ago, patience was a virtue for Mays when the draft finally took place — nearly five months late.
Mays had to wait almost four hours to hear his name called, but the 6-foot-4 combo guard finally was able to celebrate the moment he'd been working for since the college basketball season shut down in mid-March.
The coronavirus abruptly halted his college career, but it didn't end his dream of being drafted by an NBA team after he became the first LSU player to record 1,600 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals.
His character and smarts, combined with his all-around game on both ends of the floor, convinced the NBA scouts. LSU coach Will Wade said 24 of the league's 30 teams inquired about Mays prior to the draft.
Mays improved his scoring averages each year at LSU and made great strides with his shooting accuracy as a senior.
In his fourth season as a starter, he averaged a team-best 16.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in leading the Tigers to a 21-10 record. LSU tied for second in the conference race withe a 12-6 mark.
Improving his overall field-goal shooting 7% from his junior year to 49.1% and upping his 3-point shooting 8% to a respectable 39.4% got Mays on the NBA draft radar and he took it from there.
“We had Skylar ranked a lot higher (than No. 50),” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said in a news release. “A four-year guy, an extremely smart basketball player, a very good body, a combo guard, a high basketball IQ, skilled player.
"We were excited when he was there because, like I said, we had him ranked much higher than that.”
"Everything that he gets, he deserves," Wade, who coached Mays the past three seasons, said last spring. "You guys have no idea how hard of a worker he is. He's the best.
"You never bet against consistent behavior in anything that you do in life, and he's one of the most consistent human beings I've ever been around."
Wade said if Mays would not have been drafted, he would have gotten a shot as a free agent like former LSU center Naz Reid did a year ago. Reid wasn't drafted, but wound up making the Minnesota Timberwolves' roster.
"He’s been the rock of our program for three years," said Wade, who took over at LSU after the 2017 season. "He’s had a lot of teammates come and go, he’s been here through all of it.
"He’s been a critical, critical piece for us for three years. Great player, great person and really good representative of our program and LSU for sure.”
In a pre-draft scouting report on NBA.com, Mays was lauded for his aggressive nature on offense and tenacity on defense.
"A good all-around athlete, he is an aggressive slasher who embraces contact, takes the ball strong to the rim, and can play above the rim in space," the report said.
"Mays is an unselfish player with a steady demeanor who can contribute with his ability to make set shots, put pressure on the rim changing pace as a slasher, and find the open man off the dribble."
On the defensive end, the report said: "Proving to be a competitive, instinctual defender throughout his career, Mays is quick to get in the passing lanes and does not give up many easy opportunities one-on-one."