OAKLAND — AW Hamilton recently completed his first season as men’s basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky University. What Hamilton will remember most about the 2018-19 season is getting to coach Nick Mayo.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Hamilton said. “They’ll probably never be broken, the records he set. It’s been a pleasure for me to watch him.”

A 2015 Messalonskee High School graduate, Mayo completed his college basketball career with the Colonels’ final game, a 78-77 loss to Morehead State on March 2. Eastern Kentucky finished the season 13-18 , 6-12 in Ohio Valley Conference play, just short of qualifying for the conference tournament.

Nick Mayo, a former Messalonskee athlete and now a senior at Eastern Kentucky University, speaks with Messalonslee Middle School students Tuesday in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Dave Leaming

In his four seasons at EKU, Mayo established himself as one of the top mid-major players in the country. Now, the 6-foot-9 Mayo is preparing for a professional basketball career he hopes takes him to the NBA.

“The four years at EKU have been great for me. I had a lot of good times and good experiences,” Mayo said. “I obviously didn’t get to the OVC tourney. It’s going to be like that for the rest of my life. There’s nothing I can do about that. I really wished I could’ve gotten there.”

Mayo was home in Maine this week, taking some time off before he continues training for upcoming talent showcases. Mayo earned an invitation to the Portsmouth (Virginia) Invitation Tournament, a showcase for 64 of the top seniors. The tournament runs April 17-20. Mayo will compete in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams, as well as representatives from professional teams around the world. If heplays well in Portsmouth, he could earn an invitation to the NBA scouting combine. The NBA draft is scheduled for June 20.

“If I perform well there, it will only help me,” Mayo said on Tuesday afternoon, after speaking to a group of Messalonskee Middle School students. Mayo urged the students to hone their time management skills in order to excel in academics and whatever extracurricular pursuits they enjoy. A starter from Day 1 at EKU, Mayo was thrust into a leadership role early in his college career.

Mayo played 124 games at EKU, and started every one.

“I had to get there (a leadership role) pretty quick, because I was a freshman playing a lot of minutes,” Mayo said to the students. “Being on the floor is my natural habitat. I don’t feel nervous out there. It’s where I want to be.”

Playing well in Portsmouth is the next step for Mayo, who already has established a strong basketball resumé. A four-year first team all-Ohio Valley Conference selection, Mayo is only the second player in conference history to be named first team all-OVC four times, and the first in 60 years, joining Western Kentucky’s Ralph Crosthwaite, who pulled off the feat in the late 1950s.

Mayo averaged 23.7 points per game this past season, second in the OVC and 10th in the nation. He led the conference in free throw percentage (86.4 percent), tied for second in the league in blocks per game (1.8), and was fourth in rebounds per game (8.7). In January, Mayo was named to the mid-season watch list for the Lou Henson Award, presented annually to the top player from a mid-major program.

With 2,316 career points, Mayo is far and away the leading scorer in EKU history, 484 points ahead of second-place Matt Witt. Mayo sits fifth on the OVC’s all-time scoring list, and 145th on the NCAA’s all-time list. In each of the last three seasons, Mayo averaged close to 35 minutes per game. He expanded his shooting range, this past season setting career high marks in made threes (54) and attempts (163).

After coaching and helping Mayo develop for one season, Hamilton thinks Mayo has a bright future in professional basketball.

“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make an NBA team, and has a long career,” Hamilton said.

As a 6-9 player who can shoot from the perimeter, and has the strength to bang inside the paint and get after the ball and the rim, Mayo’s skill set translates to the modern NBA, Hamilton said. At Eastern Kentucky, opponents designed defenses to slow down Mayo, NBA teams won’t give him the same attention.

“Nick has a high basketball IQ,” Hamilton said. “He’s not going to be double or triple-teamed. He’s going to be a guy who gets open shots.”

Mayo said he will work with his family in selecting and signing with an agent soon. His training over the next few weeks will focus on shooting from the NBA’s deeper 3-point line, and working on quickness, to better defend pick and rolls and switch consistently throughout a game.

“There’s things I need to improve on and things I’m good at. I just need to keep improving on everything,” Mayo said. “Keep training and keep going through the process… Me being a pick and pop guy, with versatility and being able to shoot the ball, I need to keep working on my handles and foot speed. I need to adjust to the speed of the game.”

After speaking with students for approximately a half hour, Mayo signed autographs and posed for photos. After starring at EKU for four years, where he was nicknamed the “Maine Attraction,” Mayo is accustomed to the attention.

“I think my experience throughout college definitely helps. Signing autographs after the games or taking pictures, it’s cool. I’m fortunate to be in this position,” Mayo said. “It’s cool and humbling to be able to do things like this and give back. I know when I was a kid, if somebody came in, I remember what I thought. I’m glad to be in these shoes.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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