AFTER PLAYING high
school basketball for six years (he started in seventh grade) at three schools
in three states, O.J. Mayo graduated from his hometown Huntington (W.Va.) High
last Saturday. Next week? He heads to L.A. to take summer classes and begin his
college career at USC. The most renowned high school player since LeBron James,
Mayo has won three straight state basketball titles: two in Ohio at
Cincinnati's North College Hill and one in West Virginia this year, when the
6'5" point guard averaged 28.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists. He
surprised the college basketball world, including future coach Tim Floyd, when
he signed with USC—which hadn't bothered to recruit him, believing he was out
of its league.
On why he chose
I like Coach Floyd. He's overachieved. He took the Bulls job when no one wanted
it. The Hornets went to New Orleans, he took that job and still did well. I
wanted to play for a guy with the hunger and desire to be successful, knowing
he's going to push me. At the same time, it's L.A.—it's great marketing. I'll
get my face on the West Coast.
On his goals at
To win a national championship, plain and simple. Nothing else, no Pac 10
first-team, no player of the year—if it happens to come, it comes, but I want
to win a national championship. The summer will be important for us to gel.
We'll get a chance to play a lot in open gym.
On what he'll
study at USC
Business management, but I also want to do real estate investment. In my
hometown I want to fix up the old houses and put in a pool and a lot of stuff
for the community. I want to let people know that there are opportunities, that
you can make your own playbook. Work at it, and anything can happen.
On the origin of
My grandfather is named Ovinton, and I was named after him. Then, my mom
[Alisha] just chose J'Anthony as my middle name.
On deciding to
return to Huntington for his senior season
I had the idea that I was going to head west for college, so I wanted to be
around my family and my friends and my mom for my last year. I know I'll never
live at home again. I wanted to get some home love and eat my mom's
On being a public
This is what it's been since childhood. You grow into it. It's been this way
for five, six, seven years. Now I guess you can call it my life. People have
been following me since I was in seventh grade. I've never had the chance to
really be a kid.
On being suspended
after bumping an official in January
You get to see who's there for O.J. and not just there for the basketball
player. You see who is your true friend. You do one negative thing, it goes
worldwide. You look at that and say, I want to do so many good things that
people forget the negative things.
On the NBA player
Kobe Bryant—as far as his focus and determination.
On a movie idol
I like Bruce Lee movies. You see the focus in what he does. He perfects every
kick, every punch, every nunchuck. Whatever he's doing, he just perfects it. We
try to perfect everything we do in basketball.