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Getting comfy: Mayo speaks on his adjustment process

Following a dismal first half in which he played five minutes and only had one turnover and a missed shot to show for it, Todd Mayo could have easily packed in and said it was simply not his night.

His defensive rotations were slow, his lone shot attempt an ugly brick and his aggressiveness that defined his fearless freshman season was nowhere to be found. Seton Hall had gone on an 8-2 run during Mayo’s spell on the floor and cut a seven point lead to one, and no one could blame Buzz for sitting the sophomore for a 10 minute stretch spanning the first half into the second.

That’s not the player Mayo is, though, and that’s definitely not his personality. Having been suspended for the first semester after becoming academically ineligible, Mayo chose to attack his problems rather than run away from them, much like he did Wednesday night. The results? Only a 12-point scoring outburst that helped keep the Pirates at bay and gave Marquette its sixth straight victory since his return.

“Starting out the first half, I’m just trying to do whatever it is to stay on the court,” Mayo told Paint Touches exclusively after the game. “After the first half, I just went in the locker room and said, ‘forget it.’ I’m just going to do what I do, take my shots. If Buzz doesn’t like it, he doesn’t like it.”

You can’t fault a player for playing to his coaches’ desires. A team with five individual identities is one that will constantly be on the wrong end of lopsided scores. Players must all buy in to a system in order to maximize their talents.

sfgnh (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Mayo is not completely back yet to full form. But he’s close. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Yet, part of Mayo’s allure as a player is his innate scoring ability. He had the talent to hit a running floater off the glass as a freshman in the Kohl Center against a bitter rival, but just as crucially, he had the confidence to even attempt the shot.

Having used this anecdote fifty times it may have lost its luster, but the significance still remains. He is a player that thrives off confidence, illustrated even more perfectly by his midseason swoon last year, going 7-36 from beyond the arc in the final 16 Big East games.

“I need to figure out what’s my comfort level with Buzz,” Mayo added. “I feel like if I do something wrong, maybe I’m coming out. I just don’t have the comfort.”

Yet.

The scary part for the rest of the Big East is that Marquette has been playing with a shorthanded Todd Mayo up to this point. His stat line will tell you that. His scoring and rebounding averages are down as he is just now beginning to get into the flow of the offense.

“I think I’ve been feeling it since the Pitt game. I’ve just been feeling it lately. I’ve been in a good groove with my game and being comfortable with my game,” Mayo said. “I just have to figure out how I’m going to use it within the flow of the team. I feel like I’ve been working on my shot. I’ve been in the gym. I think I got up 900 shots this week. I just try to get 900 shots up a week. I’ve been feeling it. My shot is ok, I just got to get the opportunity to shoot the ball.”

With a team as offensively limited as this Marquette team is, his contributions on the court are sorely needed.

Asked what he told Mayo after hitting a deep three to beat the shot clock and extend Marquette’s lead late in the second half, coach Buzz Williams had this to say.

“[I told him] that I appreciate him hanging in there despite all he’s been through and whether he plays 30 minutes or three minutes, it’s not about whether he makes a shot, it’s about continuing to grow and continuing to learn and not letting all the emotion of ‘you made a 3 and everybody’s excited – just used it to encourage him.

“I think he’s a good player. I’ve always thought he was a good player I think his body language and his emotional body language does not always trend toward he’s a loveable kid. But obviously he’s been through a lot and I’ve been through a lot with him and his family, and I don’t know necessarily how it’s going to play out from this point forward, but I think that he’s grown and I think that in the end, to some extent, we need to win, but at the very end when I’m old and not coaching, it’s about their growth as people. I thought that was great. I thought how he played in the second half always calmed the run they were on. They made seven 3’s. That’s a lot, and I thought he made timely baskets.”

Furthermore, Mayo’s presence on the practice floor may be just as important as it is in a game setting.

“Even though, statistically what he’s done since his return you wouldn’t necessarily look at and go ‘oh that’s why they’re winning,’ we also haven’t lost since he’s been back,” Williams noted. “And I think a portion of that is what he brings to practice every day.

“That’s one more high major player you have to guard. That’s one more high major player that’s guarding you. You want to have as many good players as you can, but the more good players there are, there’s an unspoken competition going on per possession in practice, and I think that feeds into how we would like to work and how we would like to play.”

Mayo, without having been present to Buzz’ press conference echoed those sentiments when asked how he was faring in practice compared to players that had more reps while he was suspended.

“I think I’m right there. I don’t think I’m behind anyone. I think I’m on everyone’s level. I think I give everyone a boost just with my presence. It gives everyone a boost and that edge about them. I don’t know why, I just can see it. We’re 4-0 right now. We haven’t lost yet.”

There is one more big test looming for Todd, and it is one of the literal kind: school. Up to this point Mayo has had all the time in the world to focus on his game and catching up to speed. But with classes starting last Monday and a suspension already behind him, he will have to adjust to a completely new schedule that balances his academic endeavors with his basketball life.

“At first it wasn’t that hard to adjust because it was just basketball, basketball. Now I have to shift into a different gear because it’s basketball, school, basketball, school. I think I’m doing pretty good right now. It’s frustrating at first, but I think I’m doing ok right now.”

Mayo is not the offensive savior many so desperately wanted him to be. He is not a future lottery NBA pick that can score at will.

What he can be is a player not afraid to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line after having given up a 9-0 run in two minutes. What he can be is a free-throw shooter that can ice games at the line. What he can be is a teammate that can step up when the rim has a lid on it.

Todd Mayo is still adjusting to this team’s quirks and tendencies, seeing how his particular abilities fit in to this particular squad.

If last night’s second half was any indication, he’s just about there.

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