Something struck Nick Mayo when his coach at Messalonskee, Pete McLaughlin, called him Thursday night and asked him if he could be at the high school bright and early Friday morning.

“He told me to meet him at the school at 6:45 a.m.,” Mayo said. “I knew something was up.”

His suspicions were confirmed when he arrived in McLaughlin’s classroom to find not only his coach but his parents, Scott and Jennifer, waiting for him. Everyone gathered around a computer and watched a video featuring athletes such as Emmitt Smith, Robert Griffin III and Alonzo Mourning congratulating Mayo for being named Gatorade’s Maine Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-8 senior center from Belgrade averaged 24.4 points 13.6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game this year to lead the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and was named the conference player of the year. He shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the free throw line while leading the Eagles to a 14-6 record and the Eastern Class A semifinals.

“He was a difference-maker in every single game we played,” McLaughlin said.

“As far as talent goes, I do not think our area — central Maine along I-95 — has seen a player like this since (two-time Gatorade Player of the Year from Winthrop) T.J. Caouette,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “At 6-foot-8, he can simply do anything he wants on the court.”

The second Messalonskee player to win the award (Dana Doran in 1991), Mayo helped turn the school’s basketball program around after five straight years of finishing below .500, McLaughlin said.

“He kept hungry,” McLaughlin said. “He works tirelessly to be the player he is.”

Mayo joined Messalonskee at a 6-foot-1 freshman who swung between JV and varsity. By his sophomore year, he was closer to 6-foot-5 and an integral part of McLaughlin’s rebuilding plan. Along with standout guard Jordan Holmes, he helped turn the Eagles around from 2-16 his freshman year to 10-9 and a tournament appearance his sophomore year.

“His sophomore year is when things really started to change for the program and he had a lot to do with it,” McLaughlin said.

The Eagles won three more games his junior year and Mayo earned his first spot on the KVAC all-star team. Over the summer, he gave up baseball to focus on basketball and became a force on Carl Parker’s AAU basketball team, drawing the attention of numerous Division I programs. After an intense recruiting process involving schools such as Northeastern, Quinnipiac, Miami of Ohio and Vermont, he chose Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky.

Of course, returning to Maine as the latest Division I-bound player meant he was going to draw a lot of attention on and off the court during his senior season. Mayo, with his typical humility, shrugged it off.

“There was definitely a little more attention than in recent years. I didn’t let it affect me. I just kept playing basketball,” he said. “My teammates supported me on and off the court and my coaches. It wasn’t a big deal for me.”

“I think he enjoyed every second of it,” McLaughlin said, “But he’s one of the most humble kids you ever want to meet.”

Mayo shook off the distractions to maintain a B average in school, work as a youth basketball instructor and volunteer on behalf of the Bedside Manor Alzheimer’s Care Facility in Oakland and participate in a walkathon fundraiser for brain injury research.

Mayo said he will return to baseball this year, reuniting with McLaughlin and several of his basketball teammates for his final high school sports season. Then it’s on to Richmond, Ky. for the start of his college career.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5628

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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