Nukiya Mayo needed one last push to finally step on the court for real, having no clue how far it would take her.
The Monsignor Scanlan senior wing, despite being encouraged by her parents and her brother Dakari Mayo, who plays college hoops, only began playing organized basketball as a freshman. Even then she wasn’t sure.
Mayo entered the gym for tryouts with then first-year coach Tom Catalanotto and sat on the last seat of bleachers closest to the doors. She was there because was tired of hearing her brother beating her in basketball. Catalanotto finally looked at her and asked her if she was going to warm up. Mayo took to the court and hasn’t left since.
“I liked it right away,” the 6-foot-2 Mayo said. “I wished I would have started it sooner.”
She worked her way three and half years later to becoming a Division-I prospect and signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Towson University next year. Mayo chose the Tigers and coach Niki Reid Geckeler over Manhattan, Hofstra and Stony Brook. Sitting with her parents at her side, she realized just how far she’d come.
“I didn’t think I was going to get this far,” Mayo said.
She said she wanted to get away from home and experience “real college”. Mayo felt comfortable at Towson, with the staff and with the players during her visit in September. She hopes to be an integral part of rebuilding the program there.
Mayo rewarded Towson’s loyalty. The Tigers have been recruiting her since the start of her junior year, offering her a scholarship after watching her play in Scanlan’s first game of the season. A Towson coach was at each of her games this summer with the New York Belles.
“She made a lot of effort to recruit me,” Mayo said. “The school is in Maryland and they came to a lot of my games this season.”
There was a time not to long ago where all of this seemed improbable, despite her brother being a standout at Eagle Academy. Her father Edwin would see her shooting around and kept pushing her to play and her mother Donnyn Spry never thought she would.
There was a lot to learn when she did. Mayo could barely dribble as a freshman. She blossomed with the help of Catalanotto and assistant coach Mercedes Dukes
“She has gone from being a non-factor to a major factor on the team,” the coach said.
Mayo found her game and confidence as a sophomore and had a break out junior campaign. She averaged 13.5 points and 12.6 rebounds a contest to lead Scanlan to the CHSAA Bronx/Westchester crown. Mayo affects the game in so many ways.
“She can blocks shots,” Catalanotto said. “She is so athletic she gets so many rebounds. She just brings a lot to the game. She is a good passer. She shoots the three really well”
Mayo wants to take those skills and lead to the Crusaders to a CHSAA Class A state title in her final season. She will have plenty help from guard Delphynia Sparks. Mayo feels bless to have all that is in from of her now.
“A lot of people have been playing basketball for along time and they don’t have this opportunity,” she said.
All she needed was one final push.