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Mayo Providing Leadership

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Scott Wolf had a quick item on his blog about O.J. Mayo stepping into a leadership role with the freshman class.

O.J. Mayo's arrived with great fanfare but he's also quickly established himself as a leader. Mayo makes sure all four freshman show up every morning at 7:30 to lift weights and also makes sure they attend afternoon skill sessions.

That is a good impression to set forth. That is how team chemistry is built and sets a strong example for the upperclassmen as well.

Mark Saxon at the O.C. Register also has his take on Mayo's arrival at USC, which has really been without the fanfare that some would have expected.

The circus slipped into town with virtually no fanfare.

Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo, a 19-year-old basketball player of such prowess that every college in the nation coveted him for years, a prodigy that would-be profiteers and hangers-on have surrounded since seventh grade, quietly enrolled in two classes this summer at USC: freshman Geography and "Race, Class and Gender in American Film."

Mayo, who goes by O.J., also has also taken charge of a ballyhooed group of recruits -- without prompting from USC coaches -- by organizing workouts and putting together nightly pickup games at Galen Center.

So far, the climate around the basketball program has been quiet. It rarely has been like that for a player who tugged around a cloud of controversy in his final two years of high school.

I will admit that I was one of those was not sure that this would work and while still very early Mayo is also making an impression early in an attempt to quiet the critics and establish a standard.

We have all heard about the incidents that have happened in the past year so there is no need to re-hash it but what becomes clear is that Mayo wants to chart his own path and make his own name similar to what Joe McKnight is doing. Sometimes that means leaving your hometown for greener pastures and chase your dreams. I can relate to his sentiments, as I left L.A. in the early 80's and never looked back. Outside of family, there was nothing for me there and had I stayed I wouldn't be doing what I do today. Mayo tells it like it is even if it is brutally honest. Of course, I saw a thread from the yahoo's from across town lighting their hair on fire over O.J. supposedly dissing his hometown, whatever. I would say to those who have criticized him that until they walk a day in his shoes they could not possibly understand where he is coming from.

One of the rights of passage into adulthood is taking control of ones life. That is what O.J. is trying to do here; it walks hand-in-hand with leaving West Virginia:

What few people know about Mayo is that he scored a 29 on his ACT, a number that placed him in the 95th percentile. The NCAA was among the doubters. It asked Mayo for a handwriting sample. He supplied it, and the NCAA supplied him with an apology.

Part of Mayo's journey was learning to exert control over his own life. For years, older men sought to control him, from his ex-convict father, Kenny Ziegler, to an uncle, Lamar Ziegler, to Dwaine Barnes, an AAU coach whom Mayo calls his grandfather but who is unrelated, Dwaine Barnes.

Mayo broke with Barnes by choosing USC. Barnes had been steering him toward Kansas State and then-coach Bob Huggins, though Huggins denies he heavily recruited Mayo.

You cannot take that away from him, he has studied hard, made the grades and made the most of his opportunity without all the hangars on slowing him down too much.

Coach Tim Floyd has also led from the front in regards to Mayo. Yes, Mayo's "recruiting" of USC was unorthodox to the point of respectable commentators like Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post having some harsh words for Mayo. However, what gets lost is that Mayo is not cut from the same mold like LeBron James or Allen Iverson. Iverson has consistently bucked authority and James was ballyhooed by ESPN and put on a pedestal before even playing an NBA game. I have been more than critical on some of the things that have been attributed to Mayo, maybe unfairly, but he is showing the type of leadership that SC needs in its Basketball program in order to put some of the detractors quiet.

It didn't go unnoticed, but it really wasn't discussed, but Coach Floyd tells a story in the article that really shows the type of person Mayo is.

Floyd tells the story of Mayo's official recruiting visit, a dinner with the coach, Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt and incoming Trojan Davon Jefferson. Floyd ran into Mayo on the way out of the restroom. Mayo asked for the team manager's telephone number.

"The guys were going to take him out on the town that night, to Beverly Hills, to do whatever it is that they do," Floyd said. "Instead, he asked our manager to open the gym, and he shot baskets from midnight until 3 a.m. There's a reason why the great ones are great."

I have no worries that Mayo is going to do what's necessary to be a winner at SC. For all the crap he has taken, some of it from me, I am happy to see that so far he is making the necessary effort to fit in and find his role within the program. I realize it is early yet but this is better than hearing he was out boozing it up and getting into trouble. We may only have him for a year so lets enjoy the show and hope we get what we hope to get.

One other thing, I also saw that some clown from across town made an issue about Coach Floyd's comments about Young and Pruitt. I am a fan of both players and there is no doubt that we made it as far we did because of them, but in the case of Pruitt I think Floyd's comments ring somewhat true because of some of the things that I read in regards to Pruitt's preparation for the draft. There have been a number of stories that have made note that Pruitt may not have taken the process seriously and that is not too far off base from Floyd said.

So, which is it? Tell the truth and get hammered for making an informed observation or lie or deny it and get called out for a lack of character. If Coach "No-Offense" Howland made an observation like that about one of his own players how would it be taken? I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if a napkin was needed to clean his chin afterward.

You can't win with clowns like that.