Eric Mayes, the 18-year-old center on Booker High School’s basketball team, has been playing basketball since the seventh grade. He says the sport has helped him stay on the right path, and as he approaches graduation, he looks ahead.
How did you get started playing basketball?
I’ve been playing since seventh grade. Coach Clark asked me to play. I got in trouble, and I had to go to the office. Coach told me to come try out for the team to help keep me on track, and it did. I’ll always remember that day.
What do you remember about your first game?
I was pretty sorry. I didn’t know how to play. I didn’t know how to drop step. I didn’t know how to do anything. I traveled a lot. All I could do was catch and shoot.
How have you improved since then?
Lots of practice. I’ve had a lot of coaches help me with my drop step. My eighth-grade summer was when I finally got decent. So, by my freshman year, I was much better.
When did you realize you wanted to stick with it?
In that eighth-grade summer — I fell in love with it. I already had the height, and I was big enough.
What is your favorite part about the game?
Dunking. I love it; it makes the crowd go crazy. It gets me pumped up, and I definitely feed off of the crowd.
What is your biggest strength as a player?
I think my size. I’m 6’5”, so I’m a lot bigger and stronger than most of the players I’m going up against. There’s nothing they can do.
What is your biggest weakness?
My jump shot. It used to be my free throws, but I really improved those.
How do you plan to improve your jump shot?
It takes a lot of repetition. The key is to jump straight up and down, without fading away.
What is your fondest basketball memory?
My best memory is when I got two dunks in one game against Tampa Catholic. We ended up beating them and going to the playoffs. It was especially good, because they had beaten us by 30 before.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?
Listen to the people who are trying to help you. I used to be hardheaded, and I thought I was a lot better than I was. It really hit me when I started playing against people who were much better than I was.
Do you have any college plans?
Yeah, I’m visiting a lot of schools. I’m looking at Missouri, Mississippi State, USF and Iowa State.