In his first two seasons playing college basketball at Eastern Kentucky University, Nick Mayo racked up a career’s worth of individual accomplishments. Now a junior, the Messalonskee High School graduate is looking more concerned with team goals, while keeping an eye on his own basketball future. With NBA scouts starting to take notice of Mayo’s game, he may have a decision to make at the end of the season in regards to his senior season. Will the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Mayo return to Eastern Kentucky for his senior season, or will he enter the NBA draft?

“There’s no telling yet,” Mayo said when asked if the upcoming season will be his last playing college basketball in an interview earlier this week. “I’m excited for this season… We’ve got pretty much our core back. I’m excited to see what this team can do.”

Eastern Kentucky opens the season Friday at Rice University. The Colonels’ tough non-conference schedule includes games at the University of Mississippi and Oregon State, as well as a tournament in Las Vegas just before Thanksgiving. Eastern Kentucky opens Ohio Valley Conference play Dec. 28 at Jacksonville State.

A two-time all-OVC first team selection, Mayo has begun to receive national attention. In October, Mayo was one of 20 players named to the Karl Malone Award preseason watch list. The award is given annually to the top power forward in Division I men’s college basketball. On Wednesday, Mayo was named to the Lou Henson Award, given to the top player from a Division I mid-major program, watch list.

In his annual preseason ranking of every men’s basketball Division I team, Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com offered up heaping praise of Mayo’s game.

“Nick Mayo will again be a top three player in the league. Some think he’s the best. He’s an absolute beast in the OVC, and truth be told, could make the roster of almost any program in America,” Norlander wrote.

This fall, scouts from a handful of NBA have attended an Eastern Kentucky practice to get a better look at Mayo. Scouts from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Detroit Pistons have dropped in to the Richmond, Kentucky campus, and according to EKU head coach Dan McHale, all have been impressed with Mayo.

“He’ll play in the NBA someday,” McHale said of Mayo. “He’s still young (Mayo is 20). They love his youth, his size, and his demeanor.”

After the season, Mayo can attend NBA scouting combines, where he can get further evaluation. If scouts tell Mayo he’s a likely draft pick, he can leave school. If they tell him he needs more time in college, as long as Mayo does not sign with an agent, he can withdraw his name and return to the Colonels.

“He can always test the waters,” McHale said. “The NBA gives you feedback.”

Mayo downplayed the attention.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s a goal of mine to one day be drafted and play in the NBA,” Mayo said.

Mayo scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a 91-69 exhibition win over NAIA power Georgetown College last week. Last season, Mayo averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game. He shot 40.4 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. He became the first Eastern Kentucky player to reach the 1,000-point milestone as a sophomore, and enters this season having scored in double figures in 34 consecutive games.

“I’ve never had an NBA scout at a practice,” said Mason Cooper, a Lawrence High grad and freshman on the EKU roster, “but (Mayo) deserves all of it. He works so hard.”

Mayo spent most of his summer at EKU, working on his game. A point of emphasis was improving his outside shot, so Mayo can get away from the basket, where he sees almost constant double teams in the low post.

“I worked on my (shooting) range, ball-handling, post moves. I’m working on my game to help this team win,” Mayo said.

Added McHale: “Nick can beat you a lot of ways.”

Mayo’s focus is primarily on getting the Colonels into the postseason. EKU went 12-19 last season, just 5-11 in OVC play. In each of Mayo’s first two seasons, the Colonels failed to qualify for the conference tournament. In the conference’s preseason media poll, EKU was picked to finish in fifth place. The Colonels received one first place vote. EKU’s depth took a hit when redshirt sophomore guard Dujuanta Weaver tore his left ACL in last Friday’s exhibition game against Georgetown College. The loss of Weaver for the season hurts, Mayo said, but the return of other players, like guard Asante Gist, and the addition of junior guard Jackson Davis, who sat out last season after transferring to EKU from Butler, will help.

“We’ve got a pretty good group,” Mayo said. “All us bigs can shoot from the perimeter.”

Mayo is once again one of EKU’s captains.

“He knows its his team and the guys will follow him,” McHale said. “He’s had two years here. We’ve been rebuilding, and now we have a good team around Nick, and we can compete for the conference championship.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM