Nukiya Mayo wasn’t going to give basketball a try because other people were telling her it was a good idea or because her brother Dakari was playing in college. The choice to finally do so was going to be hers and it has been a good one so far.
“I don’t like people telling me what to do,” Mayo, a rising junior said. “It had to be my decision.”
The 6-foot-2, lanky forward has developed into a standout on the Monsignor Scanlan girl’s basketball team in just her second year playing basketball. Mayo, who plays her travel ball with the New York Belles, is already garnering scholarship interest from Division I schools like St. John’s, Manhattan, St. Francis (Pa.), Duquesne and St. Peter’s.
“I don’t believe it,” Mayo said of schools taking notice of her. “I go, ‘Can I see proof or something?’”
It’s hard for even her to believe how far she has come in such a short time. When Mayo came out for the team she needed to be taught basketball rules before they could get to work on skills. Monsignor Scanlan and Belles coach Tom Catalanotto said she couldn’t dribble the ball and was non-factor in games, but that’s changed with plenty of hours in the gym.
“You wouldn’t know she was out there,” Catalanotto said of her freshman season. “This year she had a really good year for us.”
Mayo, who is 6-foot-5 with her arms in the air, averaged 15 points a game as Scanlan had a strong year in the CHSAA Bronx/Westchester Class A division. Her God given athleticism allowed her to pick up the game quickly. Mayo has even dunked once in practice. She put down a toss from teammate Delphynia Sparks after a running start, but hasn’t been able to replicate it since.
“I tried it again and I couldn’t,” she said. “I can grab the rim, but it is the ball part, getting the ball to go inside the hoop.”
Scoring more consistently is the next step for Mayo. Catalanotto and assistant coach Mercedes Dukes already have her working on her perimeter game instead of just sticking her the paint because of her size. Mayo will likely play guard in college.
She showed a comfort with the ball on the wing while playing at the USJN Championship in Washington D.C. last weekend. Mayo has no hesitation attacking the basket off the dribble. Catalanotto said she is improving her jump shot. She is an active rebounder and defenser, but Catalanotto wants to see her get stronger physically also.
“She needs to do pushups and strengthen her frame,” the coach said. “She needs to put some muscle on, so when she gets knocked around she is able to finish.”
Mayo is in now way a complete product yet. There is still plenty for her to learn and improve upon over her finally two year of high school, but she already has a good foundation.
Mayo jokes that she wants to be better than her brother, who recently finished playing at Western Oklahoma State junior college. She hasn’t found the courage to play him yet, but is surprising herself with how far she’s come.
“They were patient,” Mayo said. “I can’t believe that is actually me playing.”