Now that he’s well-known as one of the top players in the Ohio Valley Conference, Nick Mayo expects to hear it from fans when his Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team plays on the road. Thats fine, Mayo said. He just wishes they’d be more original.

“One guy at Belmont had a big jar of mayo,” the 6-foot-9 sophomore said. “Most people make a joke about mayo. It’s kind of lame, actually… I usually don’t hear much. I zone people out when I’m playing.”

For the second season in a row, Mayo, a Messalonskee High School graduate, started every game for the Colonels. Mayo averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and was selected to the all-Ohio Valley Conference first team for the second consecutive season. The individual accolades are piling up for Mayo, who was the OVC Newcomer of the Year after a strong freshman season. While appreciative of the honors that come his way, Mayo is eager for the team achievments to start rolling in.

Eastern Kentucky went 12-19 this season, including a 5-11 record in conference play, missing the OVC tournament for the second consecutive season. The Colonels did play better basketball toward the end of the season, winning their last two games, including a 68-65 over eventual conference tournament champion Jacksonville State. Four of EKU’s five losses in February were by five or fewer points, including an 83-81 overtime loss to Austin Peay, and a 76-72 loss to OVC regular season champ Belmont.

“Our plan was to be playing our best basketball by February. We’ve got to get more wins early on, so we don’t need to count on winning five or six in a row,” Mayo said.

Mayo, who was a captain this past season as a sophomore, expects the Colonels to improve. Eastern Kentucky loses just one player, senior guard Isaac McGlone, to graduation. The Colonels had six freshmen on the roster this season.

“Isaac is a great captain. He did a great job of leading us young guys,” Mayo said. “I’m still one of the youngest guys on the team. I’m ready to take on the role of being the guy who leads.”

Coming off a season in which he averaged 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while earing first team all-conference honors, Mayo expected more attention from opposing defenses, and he got it.

“It was getting crazy. Every game, I was double-teamed as soon as I caught the ball,” Mayo said. “I just had to use my instincts. Tennessee-Martin used a defense that was kind of half-man, half-zone. I think it confused them sometimes. It confused us.”

In the season finale, a 75-71 win over Tennessee Tech on Feb. 25, Mayo scored a career-high 31 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his college basketball career. Mayo became the 35th Eastern Kentucky player to reach the 1,000-point plateau, and the first Colonel to reach the milestone as a sophomore. Scoring 1,000 points “kind of just happened,” Mayo said, and wasn’t a goal.

After taking some time off for spring break, Mayo will get to work on the goal of reaching the Ohio Valley Conference tournament next season.

“After next week, we’ll have individual workouts, and team lifting. It’s all about getting stronger and improving your game now,” Mayo said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM