This week, Hough High’s Luke Maye, one of the best high school basketball players in North Carolina, announced he would attend North Carolina and play for coach Roy Williams’ nationally ranked Tar Heels. Maye, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound senior power forward, said it was a dream come true.
“I can’t believe this is happening for me,” Maye, 17, said Friday morning.
Thirty one years ago, his father Mark said the same thing when he announced he would attend North Carolina to play football.
Like his son, Mark Maye was once considered one of the very best high school athletes in North Carolina, coming along at the same time as basketball star Danny Manning, who would lead Greensboro Page to a state championship.
All-State in every season
Mark Maye was a senior at Independence High in the 1982-83 school year. He would be named all-state in basketball, along with Manning, and also in baseball. But football was his best sport. In the ‘82 season, Mark Maye was 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and played a game many of his opponents couldn’t understand. Most teams back then primarily ran the ball. Maye, named all-state in football, completed 132 of 247 passes for 2,353 yards and 19 touchdowns. He ran for 333 yards and 12 touchdowns. In one game against West Mecklenburg, he completed 22 of 34 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-39 win.
It took 20 years before a Mecklenburg County player would break Maye’s single-game passing yardage record. And like Maye, Independence’s Chris Leak was an All-American in 2002 and considered by some to be the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback.
In ’82, Maye finished his football career with more than 4,000 career yards and 5,100 yards total offense. He was a Parade All-American and the No. 6 passer in U.S. history. He completed 29 of 51 passes for 311 yards in the Shrine Bowl. That winter, he was all-state in basketball, showing off a deft touch with long jump shots, something he later bequeathed to Luke. And in the spring of 1983, Mark Maye was a star pitcher and shortstop at Independence. He was also – like his son today – a straight-A student.
“He was The Man,” said former Independence High coach Tom Knotts, an assistant on the Patriots’ team during Maye’s sophomore and junior seasons. “He was a great kid and had great parents, and he loved all three sports -- football, basketball and baseball -- and he was great at all three. He’s probably the greatest student-athlete I’ve ever coached and been privileged to know. There’s nothing negative I could say about Mark Maye. I couldn’t search my brain and find anything. He stands out in every way.”
Mark Maye suffered a torn labrum during a redshirt freshman season at North Carolina that derailed his career. As a junior, he led the Tar Heels to a 30-21 win over Arizona in the 1986 Aloha Bowl, completing 17 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. But the injury recurred, and Maye played about 1 1/2 seasons in Chapel Hill. In 1988, he spent a year in rehab on the Tampa Bay Bucs’ injured reserve list. But Maye was cut in 1989. Two years later, he tried to make a comeback in the World Football League. In the second game, he injured his shoulder again.
“That’s so long ago, it’s like another life,” Maye said. “I would like to have seen what would’ve happened if I’d been healthy. My biggest asset was a pretty strong arm and it’s tough when that’s taken away.”
Life after football
After Tampa Bay, Maye returned to Chapel Hill as a graduate assistant and met a former West Charlotte High star basketball player named Aimee Sockwell.
Sockwell, 5-foot-11, was the Mecklenburg County girls’ player of the year as a senior. Sockwell’s father, the late Ed Sockwell, helped bring AAU basketball to North Carolina and had a popular club called the Sonics. His daughter played from a young age, averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds as a sophomore at West Charlotte. She was named first team All-Mecklenburg County after that season. But she also decided then she would never play in college, so even when colleges came to offer scholarships, she was burned out and knew she would attend college only as a student.
So Sockwell was volunteering as a Sweet Caroline at North Carolina, helping to show new football recruits around campus, when she met Maye, who she remembers coaching her team in a Powder Puff game against N.C. State.
“It was a tie game and he (called a play to give it) to me on the goal line,” Aimee said. “We didn’t get in. He still gets on me about that.”
A few months after the game, the two started dating. In 1995 – a few years after Mark Maye got his MBA from UNC – the two were married.
Today, they have four boys. There’s sixth-grader Drake at Bailey Road Middle, about 5-5. Beau, a seventh grader at Bailey Road, is already 6-5. Cole, a sophomore at Hough, is 6-4. And then there’s Luke, who grew up playing quarterback and pitching just like his father.
Growing Up Big
Luke Maye has always been big, but early in his career – Aimee remembers in sixth grade – he showed the same long distance-shooting ability his father once had. Usually the biggest player on the other team had to guard Luke, but that big player wasn’t used to playing so far from the basket. That ability helped Maye average 19 points and 15 rebounds during an all-state junior season.
“For my size,” Luke said, “I’m able to move pretty well, and I’m able to do things a lot of people my size can’t do. It helps me in many different ways.”
Luke stopped playing football in eighth grade and still dabbles in baseball for Hough, but admits after practice he often goes to shoot hoops with his father. That work has paid off.
“Luke Maye is a versatile post player who can score in a variety of ways,” said Ardrey Kell coach Mike Craft, whose team is among the favorites to challenge for a state title this season. “He has improved his outside shooting and he is so strong inside. I don’t know of another post player in North Carolina that possesses his skills.”
Maye’s new coach has high expectations of a player with that kind of ability.
“His game is about what I thought it would be,” Hough coach Jason Grube said. “He’s tough to handle inside. He can shoot the ball and he’s got great vision, and then there’s the kind of student he is. He’s a student of the game, too.”
Luke Maye said he hasn’t made a B since middle school and he’s sweating hard over Bs he has right now in AP French 5 and AP human geography. Maye has a 4.65 GPA. His mother says he’ll figure out how to get back on track. She said her son is extremely organized and conscientious about his academics and about his family.
“He’s the best big brother you could ever want for your kids,” she said. “He goes to all their games. He pumps them up instead of beating them down. But we have to stay on Luke about his personality. He has a funny, silly side to him that he doesn’t share enough with the outside world, and we’re constantly asking him to open up. We say, ‘Don’t be afraid to laugh.’ ”
In person, Luke bears an uncanny resemblance to his father and shares the polite demeanor his father displayed 31 years ago when he was the state’s top athlete. And as his senior season tips off, Luke has his eyes on the same thing his father did in 1982-83: having a memorable senior season.
“I feel really good about it,” he said. “We’re going to play well as a team. I’ve always been able to handle the pressure, and I’m always up to a challenge. I can’t wait.”