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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mayo’s maturity

    Ovinton J’Anthony “”O.J.”” Mayo is as serious as his name.

    Sure, he got in some fights. He threw an ally-oop dunk to himself off the backboard, then proceeded to hurl the ball into the stands. He even knocked a referee down once. It’s all on YouTube, plain as day.

    But that was all in high school, and Mayo – now the face of the Southern California men’s basketball team, a face which has been on the cover of multiple national sports magazines – is different now. He’s grown up, even if it’s only been a year. Just ask UA guard Jerryd Bayless, who’s known Mayo since seventh grade, when Mayo started to become nationally recognized – not for his bad boy antics, but for his evolution as a prodigy.

    “”I think he gets a bad rap for being a selfish player but I’ve known him for a pretty long time and I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s just one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around,”” Bayless said. “”I think he takes the game as serious as anyone out there.””

    It all starts in practice, where Mayo has a great demeanor and work ethic – working not for the NBA, where he’ll most likely be as a top-10 draft pick next year, but for a national championship with the Trojans, said USC head coach Tim Floyd.

    Mayo is averaging 19.9 points per game, tying him for second in the Pacific 10 Conference with Bayless. But numbers aren’t the only thing similar about the two freshmen, who have both demonstrated a physical eagerness to win, from high school to college, where they’ve gained national recognition – Mayo far more than Bayless.

    “”Playing against him is going to be a test to my ability,”” Bayless said, who played against Mayo in last year’s McDonald’s All-American game, where Bayless scored 11 points and Mayo netted 12. “”And I think it’s going to be a test for his, too.””

    The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Mayo came to LA with a businesslike attitude, deciding to become a Trojan without Floyd ever recruiting him. Though Mayo refused to surrender his phone number to Floyd in their first conversation – not wanting to run up the bill that his mother, Alisha Mayo, paid – Floyd said No. 32 has met all expectations and more.

    “”O.J. has been able to do whatever we asked him to do,”” Floyd said. “”When he shot the ball a lot, it’s because I asked him to shoot a lot. He recognizes that we have other guys that can take shots but we need him to take shots.””

    USC’s second-leading scorer with 12.5 ppg, 6-foot-8 forward Davon Jefferson, is a freshman that Mayo brought to Floyd. He helps cover the fact that USC lost its three leading scorers from last year in Nick Young, Lodrick Stewart and Gabe Pruitt.

    While Jefferson and guards Dwight Lewis (11.4 ppg) and Daniel Hackett (11.1) all average double digits in scoring – not to mention big man Taj Gibson (9.6) – Mayo is definitely the pacesetter.

    “”If O.J. Mayo wasn’t there they’d still be a good team but they wouldn’t be as good, obviously,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”It’s like, if Jerryd wasn’t here – well, you saw when he wasn’t here (Arizona went 1-3 when he was injured).””

    Said Bayless: “”O.J., he’s a special player. I don’t know what other words to put it in.””

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