WILLIAMSTOWN -- Ryan Kilcullen says it isn't a lot of fun having to face Mike Mayer in practice every day. So, imagine what opponents of the Williams College basketball team must feel like.
"It's very hard" to play against Mayer in practice, said Kilcullen. "He can score any way he wants. I try to make him as uncomfortable as possible and try to get him to catch off spot as much as possible.
"The key is not to get too discouraged when he hits a seemingly crazy flip shot."
Mayer, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Williams tri-captain will be leading the Ephs into this weekend's NCAA Division III Sweet 16 game against Albertus Magnus. The game will be played at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
The Ephs boarded a bus after practice Wednesday for the ride to Virginia. They were going to spend the night in Delaware and then go on to Fredericksburg.
Mayer, who spent his freshman year as an understudy to Troy Whittington, is a three-year starter under head coach Mike Maker. Mayer came in as a preseason All-American on the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.
All Mayer has done since then is average 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists for 2013-14 Ephs. He has six double-doubles this year, including two in last weekend's NCAA tournament games at Chandler Gym.
"I felt a little pressure," Mayer said before practice. "It's my senior year and I wanted it to be good. But I realized that throughout the year that I should just go out and play hard.
Williams is 25-4 and Mayer is two wins away from reaching his second Final Four in four seasons. Mayer and the Ephs went to Salem, Va., last year, but it was an Elite Eight game because the championship game was played in Atlanta the weekend of the Division I Final Four.
Maker, who is in his sixth season, said his big man is a team leader, a student of the game and a player of "high character." That's not even taking into consideration the stat sheets, where he has had double-doubles in both of Williams' first two NCAA tourney games.
"I can't say I'm looking forward to him graduating," Maker said. "Troy Whittington, for one season, arguably is the best player I've ever coached. But for a career, in my tenure, I don't think we've had anybody better than Mike Mayer."
To think that Mayer's senior season didn't get off to the greatest of starts. He and the Ephs were 2-1 when he got hurt.
The senior sprained an ankle in a win over St. Joseph's (Vt.) back on Nov. 20. He missed five games and did not return to action for more than a month. Mayer made his return to the lineup on Dec. 29 against Washington College at the Washington & Lee Tournament, scoring 7 points in 21 minutes.
"It was the first time I ever had a sprained ankle, so I didn't know how long it would take," he said. "I actually got hurt in my senior year of high school and missed the last half of the season.
"I thought about that a little bit, but once I learned the rehab time and knew I'd be back, I got to rehabbing."
For the record, Mayer got undercut going up for a pass on a fast break, fell on his elbow and shattered his wrist.
Kilcullen filled in for Mayer while the Eph was out with his sprained ankle. The transfer from Boston College said that he learns something from watching Mayer on the court.
"It's actually pretty inspiring because I don't have a similar style to him," said Kilcullen, who is more a 3-point threat. "Mike has a pretty interesting style, almost unorthodox in a way. His motor and his will to score and his will to win is something that I've certainly been really observant of and tried to implement in my game."
Albertus Magnus (28-2), Williams' opponent on Friday, is playing in its first Sweet 16. Mayer will be challenged by 6-7 center Victor Ljuljdjuraj, the Falcons' leading scorer (16.2) and rebounder (10.9).
"They're really good," Mayer said of the Falcons. "They have a really good shot blocker. I have to figure out how to score around the basket. We have to handle their pressure.
"We've been working hard in practice. We're really excited to play them."
To reach Howard Herman:
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On Twitter: @howardherman.