Eastern Kentucky forward Nick Mayo (10) works for a shot as he's defended by Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 95-67. Credit: Wade Payne | AP

Nick Mayo has spent the last few months preparing for Thursday night.

That has meant traveling the country trying to impress coaches as a candidate for one of 60 spots available in the National Basketball Association draft.

Mayo is a former standout at Messalonskee High School of Oakland who became one of the nation’s top scorers last winter as a senior at Eastern Kentucky University. He began his predraft odyssey as one of 64 prospects at the Portsmouth (Virginia) Invitational Tournament.

Since then, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward has attended workouts with nine NBA teams — the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Hornets.

“It was great. I’m very grateful that they gave me the opportunity to showcase my skills,” Mayo told NBA.com after Tuesday’s Charlotte workout. “It’s getting late in the process, and a lot of the [prospects] are fatigued. It just shows how we compete, we came out here and battled. There was a lot of great talent out here. It was a lot of fun.”

Even if he goes undrafted, plenty of options should be available for the son of Scott and Jenn Mayo.

Mayo could sign as a free agent with any of the NBA’s 30 teams and secure an invitation to play in the NBA’s summer league. If he doesn’t land on an NBA roster by the fall, he could play in the NBA’s developmental G-League or pursue overseas opportunities.

At least two recent Maine high school products, Troy Barnies of Edward Little High School in Auburn and the University of Maine, and Nik Caner-Medley of Deering High School in Portland and the University of Maryland, parlayed chances to play in Europe into lengthy pro careers.

Mayo’s rise to basketball prominence began during the summer of 2014 when he led the Maine Athletic Club to an 11th-place finish at the AAU 11th-Grade National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mayo drew the immediate attention of numerous NCAA Division I programs but also found himself attracted to the state of Kentucky.

He accepted a full scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky that September, and went on to earn Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team honors and was named the 2015 Gatorade Maine Boys Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 24.4 points and 13.6 rebounds as a senior at Messalonskee.

Mayo has been one of the top players in Ohio Valley Conference history over the past four years. He was named the 2016 OVC Freshman of the Year and became only the second player in the conference’s 71-year history to be named to the All-OVC first team in all four years.

He scored a school-record 2,316 career points and ranked 10th in NCAA Division I last winter with 23.7 points per game. He averaged 8.7 rebounds.

“Nick is a unique player, a once-in-a-lifetime guy,” Hamilton said during a December interview. “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.”

Mayo shot 44.6 percent from the 3-point arc last season and is considered by pro scouts as a “stretch four,” a power forward with the ability to shoot from the perimeter and thus stretch out opposing defenses. Those same scouts suggest Mayo’s ultimate fate at the professional level may be determined by his ability to defend against similar talents.

Mayo is not projected to become one of the very few Maine natives to be drafted. That group includes Old Town’s Tom “Skip” Chappelle (11th round by St. Louis Hawks in 1962), Orono’s Peter Gavett (18th round, Boston Celtics, 1973), Saco’s Bob Warner (eighth round, Milwaukee Bucks, 1976) and Jeff Turner, a Bangor native who grew up in Florida and was a first-round pick of the New Jersey Nets in 1984.

The NBA draft has become more exclusive over the years. When it was instituted in 1947 teams chose players until they ran out of prospects, but the number of rounds gradually decreased. In 1989 the draft was reduced to two rounds.

The talent pool for NBA prospects also has expanded from within the United States to a global reach, meaning more competition for the “Maine Attraction,” as Mayo was nicknamed while at Eastern Kentucky.

“I feel like my whole life I’ve had a chip on my shoulder, just being from Maine and everything,” he said.

“I’ve just got to come out here and prove myself.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...