Back in hometown, Mayo looks to carve out sizable role with Jayhawks

photo by: AP Photo/Michael Woods

South Dakota State guard Zeke Mayo (2) against Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark.

Zeke Mayo was so young when he first put on a Kansas uniform he can hardly even remember it.

“Probably around four or five years old,” he said Sunday.

But one far more recent occasion wearing the crimson and blue, from his recruiting visit during his offseason stint in the transfer portal, remains fresh in his mind.

“When I put on that jersey for the photo shoot, it was crazy,” Mayo said. “I looked over at my mom, she was smiling, almost had tears coming out of her eyes.”

Not long after, the South Dakota State transfer guard, who grew up a KU fan in Lawrence, announced his intent to join head coach Bill Self and the KU roster. He gave his commitment to Self in his office in what he called a “surreal moment.”

“A kid like me dreams of this kind of stuff,” he said. “The moment I told him I committed, it just all hit me.”

Two months removed from that milestone, Mayo is back in his hometown. He’s now ready to carve out his place amid KU’s existing talent and incoming transfer class, having long cited the Jayhawks’ returning personnel as one of the most appealing aspects of the program.

“His IQ’s through the roof,” Mayo said of point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. “I said it a while ago: He’s up there with the best of the best. He’s a great point guard. I know he’s going to lead us both on and off the course.”

And of how Mayo can benefit from center Hunter Dickinson’s presence in the middle, he said: “Not only will it help us, but it’ll also help him. He’s going to have more space to work down there, but when he feels pressure he can kick out to us and reseal, get it right back, or give it to us for some knock-down shots.”

Fellow transfers AJ Storr and Rylan Griffen committed in the weeks following Mayo’s pledge, but Mayo hasn’t shied away from the challenge of finding his own role. In late April, following Griffen’s commitment, Mayo responded to a social media post suggesting he would “really have to compete now for minutes” by writing, “Could’ve kept this in the drafts. Any player has to compete for minutes no matter the level of play. Expected nothing less.”

On Sunday, he said of the acquisitions of Storr and Griffen, “It just lets me know, KU, we have a standard here and we want to win. We’re going to try to get the best players possible to compete at the highest level.”

Storr, for his part, struck a similar tone when discussing the high quantity of transfer talent: “That just helps the team out. Helps me out, helps me get better. Iron sharpens iron.”

Mayo averaged more than 18 points per game each of the last two seasons at SDSU and is a career 38.8% shooter from beyond the 3-point line, expected to serve as one of the primary remedies for KU’s poor outside shooting last season.

He’ll have just one season to make that impact as — even though he’s moving up to a higher level of competition — he will be a senior.

That makes him one of the most experienced players on the team, along with Dickinson, Harris and KJ Adams.

“I’ve been in a leadership position for the last couple years,” he said. “I know Dajuan’s a point guard and Hunter’s a fifth-year senior, so those two guys are obviously the heads of the snake right now. But I really look forward to coming in here, being the one leader that can be a little more vocal and lead the team.”


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