SI Vault
 
Growing Apart
Seth Davis
May 08, 2006
Budding superstar O.J. Mayo might leave the tiny Ohio high school he helped put on the map
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 08, 2006

Growing Apart

Budding superstar O.J. Mayo might leave the tiny Ohio high school he helped put on the map

View CoverRead All Articles

O.J. Mayo and North College Hill ( Ohio) High have done well by each other since the point guard enrolled there three years ago (SI, Dec. 5). Mayo, 18, a junior and two-time winner of Ohio's Mr. Basketball award, has lived up to his billing as a future NBA superstar. NCH, a small public school, has reaped the benefits--increased gate receipts, uniform donations from Reebok and voter-approved tax revenue--of hosting a player with LeBron-like buzz.

Now, however, their marriage may be headed for a divorce. Last month Mayo was suspended by NCH, his third ban in a year. Neither NCH nor Mayo has commented, but Mayo's close friend and teammate, Bill Walker, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Mayo had been disciplined for fighting. (The previous suspensions were reportedly for fighting and missing class.) A source close to Mayo told SI that the fight involved a female student and that Mayo will remain enrolled but can't attend classes with other students for the rest of the school year.

Two weeks ago Mayo drove to Mouth of Wilson, Va., to inquire about transferring to prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. At first the school was receptive--but Mayo neglected to mention his latest suspension. After school officials learned about it through news reports, they contacted Mayo last week and said he would not be admitted to Oak Hill.

As Mayo ponders a transfer, he may be distancing himself from Dwaine Barnes, his legal guardian and summer coach--and the person who engineered his move to North College Hill. According to the source, Mayo is "basically living on his own" in Ohio because Barnes, whom Mayo calls his grandfather even though the two are unrelated, now spends most of his time in his and Mayo's hometown of Huntington, W.Va. ( Mayo's mother lives there; he has no contact with his father.) Two weeks ago Mayo spurned Barnes's AAU team, the D-I Greyhounds, to play for the Miami Tropics. Mayo rejoined the Greyhounds last weekend for a tournament in Akron, but Tropics coach Art Alvarez has suggested Mayo could play for the Tropics this summer.

NCH could suffer a double loss: Walker, one of the nation's top five high school players, is unlikely to return if Mayo goes. Still, athletic director Joe Nickel told SI the school has benefited from having the pair for three years. "We're set financially for the next 10 years because O.J. and Bill came to our school," Nickel said. "No matter what happens, nobody can take that away."

1