Chiba Jets forward Nick Mayo prepares to take a shot during a game last season. Mayo, a former Messalonskee and Eastern Kentucky standout, had been playing for the Jets in Japan’s professional B.League before it suspended operations because of the coronavirus pandemic. Contributed photo

Nick Mayo is on the other side of the world, far from home. Like many people, Mayo wonders when he can go back to work.

A 2015 Messalonskee High School graduate, Mayo  is in his first season of professional basketball, playing for the Chiba Jets of Japan’s top league. In early February, the league shut down for a month as the country confronted the coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. Mayo and the Jets returned to action for one game in an empty arena, only to have the league once again suspend play.

In 19 games this season, Mayo is averaging 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Chiba played its last game March 14, an 88-80 loss to Tochigi in which Mayo scored a team-high 22 points.

“That was really weird. It just felt like a closed scrimmage, but the game had a lot of importance. After that game we were supposed to do the same thing the next day, but the league suspended all games until April 4, so we all have another couple of weeks without games,” Mayo said in an email.

Mayo signed with the Jets after playing with the Miami Heat in the NBA’s Summer League team, where he averaged 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in four games in the Las Vegas league, and four points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in three games in the Sacramento league.

The Chiba Jets are in Funabashi, a city with a population of approximately 623,000 on the east coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. The Jets are one of 18-teams in the B League, Japan’s highest professional basketball league. Chiba was league runner up last season. Initially, the plan was for the league to shut down for two weeks. That turned into a month before the league briefly resumed games in empty arenas, Mayo said.

“The initial shutdown wasn’t a surprise but as the virus began to spread we were all unsure if we would start playing again. It then eventually turned into the league having meetings every other day and adjusting the season,” Mayo said, adding the team was allowed to workout and practice during the initial shutdown.

“It’s been pretty crazy. I’ve never had a break from games like this in a season before. When I’m not doing that I’m playing video games with my boys back in the states and I usually only leave the house when I need groceries,” Mayo said.

Here in Maine, Jenn and Scott Mayo, Nick’s parents, check in with their son often. They use the Facetime app to check in with each other each morning and evening, Jenn Mayo said.

“Scott and I are worried about him, but not frantic,” Jenn Mayo said. “Japan is probably one of the safest countries anyone could be in right now.  They have been very cautious and respectful with this coronavirus. I think his biggest issue right now is that he is bored.”

Mayo said that grocery stores in Japan are full of empty shelves and shortages early in the crisis.

“As of last week it has been pretty normal at grocery stores and people are  back to their everyday life,” Mayo said.

For now, Mayo is in a holding pattern, unsure if the league will be able to stick with the plan to resume games in early April.

Mayo has long dreamed of playing professionally, and this experience has not altered his plans. As of Thursday morning, Mayo did not know if any teammates or other players in the league had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“It hasn’t changed how I feel playing abroad. I love playing basketball and this would have been a strange situation anywhere I was,” Mayo said. “At this point there is no telling what is going to happen or how the season is going to finish out. I just hope this virus situation gets taken care of soon and everyone is healthy.”

“We would love to have him home but he is still able to work out and practice with his team, which he would not be able to do at home, and he is making the most of it with putting in extra workouts,” Jenn Mayo said. “We are so proud of him and really look forward to being able to watch him play again real soon.”

After graduating from Messalonskee, Mayo played college basketball at Eastern Kentucky University. A four-year all-Ohio Valley Conference first team selection, Mayo left EKU as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,316 points. Last season Mayo averaged 23.7 points per game for the Colonels, placing him in the top 10 in NCAA Division I scoring.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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