Nick Mayo’s pursuit of a pro basketball career enters its postseason phase this week when he participates in one of the premier pre-NBA draft camps at the Portsmouth (Virginia) Invitational Tournament.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward from Oakland, a 2015 Messalonskee High School graduate who just completed an honor-filled college career at Eastern Kentucky University, is one of 64 seniors from around the country invited to participate in the annual four-day, 12-game Portsmouth showcase that has been a staple of the pre-draft season since its inception in 1953.
General managers, scouts and other officials from every NBA team as well as from some international leagues will be among the interested observers at the event, which runs from Wednesday through Saturday.
Mayo is scheduled to play in his first game at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Churchland High School Sports Complex.
“Nick is a unique player, a once-in-a-lifetime guy,” said Eastern Kentucky head coach A.W. Hamilton during an interview last December. “I’ve had 11 former players make it to the NBA, but I’ve never had a player like Nick Mayo. I truly believe he can play at the highest level.”
All 64 players who took part in the Portsmouth Invitational last spring have played professional basketball in the past year either in the NBA, G-League or overseas.
Thirty-two of the 148 Portsmouth Invitational alumni during the last two years have seen action in the NBA.
The Portsmouth Invitational has featured such future NBA stars as Rick Barry, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Dave Cowens and John Lucas during its early history, and later participants included John Stockton, Dennis Rodman, Tim Hardaway, Scottie Pippen and 2015 NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler, now of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Mayo will bring an impressive resume to the tournament in an effort to someday join that group.
This past winter, he ranked second in the Ohio Valley Conference and 10th in NCAA Division I in scoring at 23.7 points per game during the regular season. He also led the OVC in free-throw percentage (.864), tied for second with 1.8 blocked shots per game and ranked fourth with 8.7 rebounds per game.
He grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds during EKU’s season-opening game against Marshall, and followed that by scoring a career-best 40 points during a road win at Chattanooga last Nov. 10 — scoring 27 points in the final 10 minutes of that 81-78.
Mayo closed out Eastern Kentucky’s November schedule with 23 points and nine rebounds against then-No. 6 Tennessee, which went on to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Other senior-season highlights included buzzer-beating shots in victories over High Point and Northern Kentucky, and games of 36 and 26 points against eventual OVC champion Murray State.
The 21-year-old Mayo finished his EKU career fifth on the OVC’s all-time scoring list and 145th among NCAA Division I scorers with 2,316 points, also a school record.
He also grabbed 833 rebounds during his career at Eastern Kentucky and had 176 blocked shots while shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Mayo recently became only the second player in the OVC’s 71-year history to earn first-team all-conference status in each of his four years at Eastern Kentucky. Western Kentucky’s Ralph Crosthwaite (1954-59) is the other four-time All-OVC honoree.
He also was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 19 first team as a senior after being named to the all-district second team after each of his first three seasons at Eastern Kentucky.
Mayo has been assigned to Team 7 in this year’s eight-team field at Portsmouth. His teammates are 6-11 power forward Kyle Alexander of Tennessee, 6-8 power forward Dererk Pardon of Northwestern, 6-7 shooting guard Terance Mann of Florida State, 6-6 guard Cameron Young of Quinnipiac, 6-3 shooting guard Barry Brown Jr. of Kansas State, 6-3 point guard Jalen Adams of Connecticut, and 6-2 point guard Jordan Davis of Northern Colorado.