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The O.J. Circus

No news is still big news with Mayo at ABCD Camp

Posted: Monday July 10, 2006 3:40PM; Updated: Wednesday July 26, 2006 2:06PM
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Amid speculation about his college choice, O.J. Mayo wasn't the best player at the ABCD Camp, but he was the story.
Amid speculation about his college choice, O.J. Mayo wasn't the best player at the ABCD Camp, but he was the story.
Michael LeBrecht/SI
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Moments after Sunday's senior all-star game at the Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., had been decided by the ridiculous score of 170-165, O.J. Mayo sat on the Gold team's bench  and blithely signed autographs for a half-hour. A 6-foot-5 combo guard who recently completed his junior year at North College Hill  High just outside of Cincinnati, Mayo was not given one of the game's MVP awards. Many experts would argue he wasn't the best player in camp. Yet the pen-wielding youngsters had their own ranking system, and Mayo's was the autograph they wanted. Whether he likes it or not, this is O.J. Mayo's reality.

The virtuoso talents behind that celebrity were on display again at ABCD, but that was only a small part of Mayo's story last week. Off the court his week was filled by confusion and rampant speculation about the status of his college recruitment. The circus was just the latest sign that the dysfunction in Mayo's inner circle is taking its toll.

The craziness began a few days before the camp started, when several Internet reports indicated that Mayo had committed to USC during an unofficial campus visit last month. The reports further claimed that Mayo was going to make his decision public at ABCD. Mayo did have a press conference last Thursday, but that session turned into a farce as soon as one of the camp's directors opened by amateurishly instructing the press not to ask Mayo any questions about his recruitment.

The word filtering around the camp later was that Mayo wanted to make an announcement but was implored to wait until he could talk it over with his mother, or at least make sure she was present. When the camp closed three days later, Mayo's mother was still in West Virginia, he still had not made an official announcement and he sounded like one would not be forthcoming anytime soon.

"I'll decide when I decide," Mayo told me on Sunday. "I'm in no rush. I have the rest of the summer and my senior year of high school ahead of me. It's a touch and feel thing. When I feel it's the right time, that's when I'll do it."

This does not mean the early press reports were completely wrong. Mayo has, in fact, been telling the USC coaches for months he wants to go there. He likes the idea of playing in Los Angeles, but he wants to go to a program without a lot of winning tradition because he prefers to start one himself like he has done at North College Hill.

Still, a player telling coaches he wants to go to their school is like a man who tells his girlfriend he wants to get married. Saying it is one thing, getting down on one knee, putting a ring on her finger and walking down the aisle is quite another. When I asked Mayo if he liked USC, he said yes, but he was still considering Florida and Kansas State. That doesn't sound like a firm commitment to me.