Cracking the rotation

Zeke Mayo improves quickly for the Lions


Addisson Thornsbury

striving for greatness — Freshman Zeke Mayo shows off his ability at the City Showdown on Dec. 15 at Allen Fieldhouse. “Being vocal on the court, that’s really helped me,” Mayo said.

By Jackson Hoy, Copy Editor

Few freshmen earn varsity minutes for head basketball coach Mike Lewis, but Zeke Mayo is breaking that trend.

“I think it was Gardner Edgerton or something, he threw a pass from like the opposite free throw line through like three people’s legs, and I was like, ‘Yeah he’s going to be good,’ ” said senior Jake Rajewski, one of Mayo’s teammates.

Seventh-year JV/varsity assistant coach Matthew Stiles saw it in practice.

“He is coachable,” Stiles said. “He doesn’t come in with any ego whatsoever. Although he has quite a reputation built up about how good he is and how good he could be, he doesn’t act that way. He’s very quiet and listens, and he remembers what you’re telling him… and he actually implements that into the game.”

During the summers, Mayo perfects his skills playing for KC Run GMC on the elite Under Armour Association circuit. The program has produced close to 100 Division 1 basketball players, and Mayo hopes he is next. He says he has interest from the University of Kansas, a significant development for a player who is only halfway through his first year of high school.

“He’ll be compared to Justin [Roberts] and AB [Anthony Bonner] probably by a lot of people, because they’ve been so recent, and that will be something that will be good for him but also necessary for him to carve his own little route and just be Zeke Mayo,” said Stiles, referring to the Lions’ most recent Division 1 basketball products.

Stiles himself compared Mayo to those two, citing that they were the only freshman during his time with the program to earn significant varsity minutes, but he was also quick to point out differences in Mayo’s game.

“[Zeke] doesn’t force anything; he’s really smooth,” Stiles said. “They’re smooth in that same way. He might be a little bit better at the pull-up game. He’s a really good mid-range, floater, from really any spot, whereas AB was probably just a little bit better, purer shooter.”
Mayo knows what it will take from him to reach the next level as a player. He said leadership is his biggest point of improvement on the court and that “I’ll definitely have to get stronger.”

Rajewski lit up when asked about the type of player Mayo could be.

“His offensive game is just going to keep getting better,” he said. “If he gets that quicker step on defense, he’s going to be an amazing player.”

It didn’t take long for coaches and teammates to recognize Mayo’s talent.

“Honestly tryouts, we saw that pretty quickly, that… he was in the conversation right away as JV/varsity, wasn’t varsity right away, but it became pretty clear in that week and then in the weeks of practice leading up to our first game it was clear he could hold his own with them,” Stiles said.

Rajewski was similarly impressed by Mayo early on.

“Everybody else, we have been around each other and know what we can do, but when Zeke came in, we didn’t know how exactly he’d fit, and then immediately we knew how he would after that first game,” he said.

Long-term, Mayo has visions of where basketball could take him. He said he first started dedicating himself to the game “because role models I see on TV, how far they’ve gone, just thinking of what I could do to improve myself, and I could get my family to where they need to be and help out other people.”

Mayo certainly has the potential to ride his game to the professional level. If he ends up at a program like KU, NBA scouts will get to know his name. However, Stiles was quick to emphasize focusing on Mayo’s present and letting the future work itself out.

“[His trajectory is] totally up to him,” Stiles said. “He has a lot of potential for sure… He’s really talented so the sky’s the limit — that old cliche — but it’s probably true for him.”

For now, Mayo brings the right attitude: focus on working hard now and worry about the future later.

“We talk to him a lot about being more aggressive, finishing at the rim, being more physical, and that will come for sure,” Stiles said. “He’s so composed and lets the game come to him that sometimes, we’re pushing him to be more aggressive. We’re really wanting him to get out of his comfort zone and be more vocal, but he’s got time for that.”

With such a talented freshman, the program is excited to see how Mayo’s game develops. But right now, he and his teammates are focused on this season.

“We know his game and what he can do,” Rajewski said. “We can put trust in him.”