A standout quarterback with Division I talent, Urbana High School junior Nathan Mays expects to get singled out by opposing student sections with wise cracks during basketball season. But from his own team?
“We get on him a lot that he’s just a quarterback, a prima donna,” Urbana boys coach Jeremy Dixon said. “In reality it’s all joking because he’s willing to do anything. The grunt work, being the scorer, guarding the best player, anything we ask him.
“You hear a little more from the student sections getting on him a little bit because they know him from football. ‘Ohhh, Nathan Mays. We thought you were D-I!’ Just good natured things like that. I think he’s proven he’s a pretty good basketball player, too.”
Mays has done his part to quiet the crowds. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound forward is just shy of averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 9.2 rebounds. Those number ranked him seventh and fourth in the Central Buckeye Conference entering Friday night’s game at Benjamin Logan.
The Hillclimbers entered Friday with a two-game lead in the Mad River Division. They won the division title outright in 2012 before sharing it with Graham last season.
In football the Hillclimbers have won the past three CBC titles outright and shared it with Ben Logan in 2010. No wonder student sections are tired of seeing the ’Climbers come to town.
Senior basketball leadership comes from Dillon Knueven (11.5 points), Alex Niswonger (9.8) and Justin LeVan (4.3). Juniors Caleb Honore (11.2), Jaymen Neff-Strickland and Trevor Thomas have also played key roles.
“We were a good team last year but we were pretty reliant on our two top scorers,” Dixon said. “It remains to be seen how good we’re going to be this year but we have more guys that can hurt you.”
Heading into Friday’s game, the team was 9-4 overall, and 6-0 in the conference.
Mays can do most of his damage under the basket. He has six double-doubles through 13 games and prides himself on rebounds.
“It shows dominance,” Mays said. “I don’t really care about being the guy with all the points on the scoreboard as long as I’m doing my part and helping the team.
“I don’t really feel the pressure of it. I think everybody expects me to do well. But that’s kind of what I expect from myself, too. I know if I do what I’ve been taught it’ll turn out the way I want it.”
That’s especially been true on the football field. Mays threw for 3,071 yards last season with 34 touchdowns and just six interceptions. In his three-year career he’s thrown for 7,062 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 92-to-13. Indiana, Illinois, Ball State, Toledo, Bowling Green and Kent State are among those that have shown interest.
“I like both sports equally, but the success I’ve had in football overshadows what I’ve done in basketball,” Mays said of his decision to play college football over basketball. “Whenever I’m quarterback I have to show leadership. I have to know everything going on. I definitely think that translates to basketball and helps me help them.”
Nathan Mays stats
Games Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
13 14.5 9.2 2.2 1.5 1.0
Points: 29 (loss vs. Kenton Ridge)
Rebounds: 13 (win vs. Indian Lake)