Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 1:44 pm  |  12 responses

The Fresh Man

An OJ Mayo feature written during his first and last year at USC.

Mayo maintains his decision to come to USC had nothing to do with Guillory. “He was like, ‘Why would you go to SC? That’s a football school,’” OJ laughs. He says he chose the Trojans because he didn’t want to be the latest cog in a dominant program; because he respected Tim Floyd’s ability to make the most of NBA coaching gigs that were preordained for failure; and because when you’ve spent all your life at the intersection of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, L.A. seems even more beautiful than it occasionally is. There’s another reason, as well.

“A lot of people who went to SC didn’t play ball—people who do films, lawyers and doctors, people who do things in real estate and business,” OJ says. “There’s a lot of people that make things happen out here.” He says he dreams of one day going back to Huntington and helping to redevelop it.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be done there,” he continues. “I’ve always had a goal to be mentioned in that category with Jordan, Magic, Bird, Isiah. But after that, then what? What’s the average time you live on earth? Like 60, 65 years? Basketball’s gonna take up half of it. I’d like to be successful in the other half, too.”

Mayo’s cynics will likely be unmoved. Those who know him won’t be surprised. “People focus on the negative too much,” says Kevin Love. “They think he’s a bad kid, but that’s not the case.”

The UCLA freshman has known OJ as a rival and friend since junior high. Love says Mayo was the only high schooler he faced who could match his competitiveness, a fact that makes their pending crosstown rivalry all the more compelling. “We’ve talked about dealing with all the negative stuff, and I totally respect how he’s handled it,” Kev says.

The role of postmodern high school phenom was originated by LeBron James, and as such, James is ideally placed to give Mayo advice. Sure enough, they speak often. “I never put it in the perspective of what people thought about me, so people wondering why he does some of the things he does—he’s his own man. He should make his own decisions,” LeBron says. “We just talk about making sure he maintains his focus, and making sure basketball is always fun. He’s done a great job of that.”

McClure could be excused for wanting to pass this particular story on to the folks in L.A., for whom it seems a more natural fit. But no. “If you’ve been with him, you’ve talked to him, you know how intelligent he is,” the Huntington sports editor says. “I think most people here are able to say, ‘Hey, he’s a kid, he’s gonna make mistakes,’ and I think he’s smart enough to know this is a big opportunity for him. If he screws it up, what’s left?”

Not “if,” you might be saying, but “when.” If the Internet postulating and sports-talk moralizing have you convinced, OJ Mayo’s self-constructed downfall is a matter of time.

But maybe you’re willing to risk getting burned, able to accept that he is who he says he is. If so, you might believe that “What’s left?” is a question he already knows the answer to, and that it’s not an answer he can live with.

Jason Kidd: Tricks Are For Kidd
Lamar Odom: Hard Knock Life
Dwyane Wade: Puttin’ In Work

LaMarcus Aldridge: Creepin’ On The Come Up

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  • arjae828

    Really thought he’d be better. Harden dominated him in college and even in the L he’s been pretty average. Expected him to end up being Kobe light.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    someday oj’s gonna figure out how to dominate in the league

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Yeah I must admit to overhyping dude… He has all the skills. It seems to be mental. Maybe even a lack of passion. I don’t know though. I know he is going to have a good NBA career, but I definitely saw him as multiple AllStar, possible SuperStar.

  • golden state

    always felt that the heat dropped the ball on the passing on mayo for beasley. the backcourt of mayo and wade would have been great for both the heat and mayo.

  • Heals

    Man did I flip-flop on dude. Just thought he was overhyped going into SC, at times (not often but it happened) only the 3rd best player on the team and a little too into himself at the time. I dunno, but since turning pro I’ve just found a nice appreciation for his game and style. Even though I thought he underperformed as a Trojan, I just remember thinking “naw he’s more suited for the pro game,” whenever watching him. I certainly think he’s capable of starting for most of his career, but would love to see him blossom as 6th man. Give him a little combo guard action, some defensive help and the potential is there.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Slick Ric

    Dont know about about OJ dominating the league but I can see him blossoming into a one, maybe two time all-star.

  • Mogdog

    That’s a really nice cover, I remeber when I got it in the mail like it was yesterday

  • brad

    good player, dont think he has the athletic ability to dominate in the nba like other guards.I always thought brandon roy was the best senario. I think hes more of a jumpshooter than anyone would have thought. Weird how some of these cant miss prospects miss.

  • http://slamonline.com Big D

    Over-hyped to the max in high school and going into his fresman year at USC. Over-hyped like Telfair, Gerald Green, and so on…

  • Tron

    oj mayo has all-star potential. he IMO was one of the more mature guards ive seen coming into the league. he is the type of player that doesn’t force many hings on the court. he lets the game come to him. get him on the right team(Chicago)and he will blossom. memphis has treated him like a red headed step child and forgot how good his first two season were. make the trade memphis… whatever team gets him will get a steal.

  • Anish

    @ arjae828

    Not sure where you’re getting your numbers from, but OJ put up 28.5 against Harden (who put up 25.0) in college.

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