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May 16, 2008
Around the Rim
The O.J. Mayo Saga

by John Perrotto

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It all seemed too good to be true when O.J. Mayo landed in the lap of Southern California coach Tim Floyd.

The Trojans hadn’t been recruiting the highly regarded guard from Huntington, W. Va., because they felt they had no chance of signing him. Yet, Mayo called Floyd and basically recruited himself to USC because he wanted to play at a program in a big market, where he could immediately market himself as a superstar.

There is no doubt Mayo became a star in his one season at USC before declaring for the draft. He led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman with team-leading averages of 20.7 points and 3.3 assists a game while ranking 15th nationally in percentage of shots (34.4), 25th in percentage of possessions (30.8) and 27th in percentage of minutes (91.1).

However, allegations have surfaced in recent days that Mayo accepted cash, up to tens of thousands of dollars, and gifts in violation of NCAA rules.

Mayo responded by telling the Los Angeles Times that the allegations are a “publicity stunt” because he broke ties with Louis Johnson, a former Los Angeles-area sports writer who has a cocaine conviction. Johnson is the one who made the allegations to ESPN against Mayo, who says he will cooperate fully with investigators from the NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference.

“My family hasn’t accepted anything, so I’m just waiting for the NCAA to do what they have to do to prove that I haven’t done anything wrong,” Mayo said.

Johnson said that Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management, which will represent Mayo in his NBA contract negotiations, gave a luxury sports utility vehicle and nearly $200,000 in cash to Los Angeles events promoter Rodney Guillory. In turn, Johnson claims Guillory gave part of the money to Mayo.

"I can't speak for what Rodney has done," Mayo said. "God forbid, he hasn't done anything. But I know for a fact that I haven't accepted anything."

Time will tell exactly who is telling the truth but the idea USC could be put on probation is already taking a toll. Guard DeMar DeRozan of Compton, Calif., USC’s top recruit, is having second thoughts about signing with the Trojans last November, according to family members.

"If they can't make the tournament next year, that's what we're going to college for," Jermaine DeRozan, DeMar’s half-brother, told the Los Angeles Times. "If you do your one year (before turning pro), you at least have to shine and get to the tournament with the intentions of winning it or get to the Elite Eight.”

(Very) Early Recruiting

Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie is doing everything he can to ensure he locks up the best recruiting classes of 2011 and 2012.

Yes, 2011 and 2012.

Gillispie already has a verbal commitment from a high school freshman (6'8" Vinny Zollo of Greenfield, Ohio) and an eighth grader (6'4" Michael Avery of Sherwood, Calif.). Last weekend, Gillispie offered a scholarship to another freshman, 6'2" point guard Jeremiah Davis III of Muncie (Ind.) Central High School.

“I was honored,” Davis told the Lexington Herald-Leader about the offer. “I don’t know if I’m going to take it yet. I’m still a freshman.”

Davis is also being recruited by such powers as Indiana, Ohio State and Tennessee, though none have offered scholarships, as programs continue to recruit high school players at younger and younger ages.

Davis’ father, Jeremiah Davis Jr., admits that having a son offered a scholarship at such a young age makes for a difficult decision.

“When you have something, you don’t want to let it go,” the elder Davis said. “He’s a freshman. To get something like that from Kentucky, the University of Kentucky, there are not many universities bigger than that, if any.”

Sampson Hired

Kelvin Sampson, who resigned under pressure as the coach at Indiana in February after being charged with five potential major NCAA rules violations concerning calls to potential recruits, has landed in the NBA as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks.

However, Sampson does not want to close the door on coaching in college again. Thus, he has written a letter to NCAA Committee on Infractions to explain his side of the story.

Sampson released his formal response this week. In it he claimed the worst charges against him are “not substantially correct,” he didn’t knowingly commit violations and that Indiana’s compliance department did not monitor and him staff closely enough.

Sampson is scheduled to appear with university officials and two of his former assistants, Rob Senderoff and Jeff Meyer, on June 13 in a hearing in front of the infractions committee in Seattle. The committee has the power to prevent Sampson from coaching in the NCAA for five years by imposing a “show cause” ruling.

The NCAA’s charges against Sampson claim he repeatedly provided the university and the NCAA’s enforcement officials with false information about his violations and that his staff made more than 100 recruiting calls that violated restrictions imposed on Sampson from infractions he committed at Oklahoma.

South Carolina's European Vacation

New South Carolina coach Darrin Horn will get an early chance to get acquainted with his players as the Gamecocks will take a 10-day trip to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria in August. Horn was hired by the Gamecocks to replace the retired Dave Odom after spending the past five seasons at Western Kentucky, his alma mater, and leading the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season.

Horn inherits four starters from a team that went 14-18 last season, including junior guard Devan Downey (18.4 points, 5.4 assists a game), senior guard Zam Frederick (14.8 points, 3.2 assists) junior forward Dominique Archie (10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds) and sophomore forward Mike Holmes (8.5 points, 5.7 rebounds).

Downey was eighth in the nation in percentage of minutes (93.2) and 11th in percent of steals (5.0) while Frederick was 68th in percentage of minutes (87.8) and Holmes was fourth in turnover rate (7.9) and 47th offensive rebounding percentage (13.2).

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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