Eastern freshman forward Nick Mayo became a star in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) throughout the season, earning awards such as OVC Freshman of the Year and All-OVC First Team.
The dominant inside presence averaged 14.5 points, five boards and one block during his first collegiate season. The story of how he came to EKU is even more interesting.
Hailing from Oakland, Maine, Mayo committed early to the Colonels just before the start of his senior year to former Head Coach Jeff Neubauer. When Neubauer left EKU to take the Fordham job, Mayo said things got a little crazy.
“It was stressful because I didn’t know who the coach was at first,” Mayo said. “A week later McHale got the job and he flew to Maine with Coach Bradley and talked to me, so it was a good chance to meet them.”
With Mayo still committed to the Colonels, EKU knew it had a big time talent. Local news stations did profiles on the 6-foot-9 forward before he even arrived on campus, turning up the pressure on Mayo to succeed from day one.
Mayo appears to have answered that call in amazing fashion with some big games and monstrous dunks during his freshman season. The forward even inadvertently turned his signature headband and long hair into something everyone on campus recognizes.
Mayo said the pressure can still be weird.
“Sometimes it’s cool coming from a different state and people know who you are and stuff, but usually it doesn’t bother me,” Mayo said. “I just take it day by day.”
When EKU’s conference play started, Mayo had rounded into form by scoring in double digits in all but two conference games. He had a career-high 28 points against SIUE and led the team in scoring, field goals and blocks.
Only Mayo and Cameron Payne, the backup point guard for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, won OVC Freshman of the Year and were selected to the All-OVC First Team during their first seasons.
Mayo found out about the honors in an unconventional way.
“We were in the locker room having a meeting talking about next year and one of the guys was on the Twitter and it popped up,” Mayo said. “They started telling me I had won and stuff and then coach told me and congratulated me. So yeah, I found out through Twitter.”
Now that the Colonels are in the off-season, they are lifting weights four days a week and doing individual drills three days a week on the court.
With the type of season Mayo had as a freshman, it would be easy to sit back and coast. But hat’s not how he’s approaching it.
Mayo has several different facets of his game that he’s trying to improve.
“For me, just trying to get bigger,” Mayo said. “I’ve already put on a couple pounds. Really just my whole game, though. Trying to become a better shooter. I’ve worked on rebounding. I know I have to be a better rebounder for next year; and just being more of a threat on defense.”
With Mayo being around another three years and Head Coach Dan McHale continuing to implement his system and recruit, the future for EKU’s basketball program is bright.