March 28, 2007

It's been a roller-coaster year for Huntington (W.Va.) guard O.J. Mayo.

RISE's No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2007 certainly experienced some high points, such as recording 41 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a 103-61 rout of South Charleston (South Charleston, W.Va.) in the Class AAA state title game and being named a McDonald's All-American.

But there were plenty of low moments as well. Mayo was suspended three games for being ejected from a game and making contact with an official, he was cited with marijuana possession (the charges were dropped) and he caused controversy with his antics at the end of that South Charleston game when he punctuated a slam dunk in the final minute by throwing the ball into the crowd and walking off the court with his arms raised with a minute still left on the clock.

During Tuesday's Media Day at the McDonald's All-American Game, the USC-bound Mayo opened up on these topics and plenty more, including his marketability in Los Angeles, whether USC could have another Reggie Bush-type scandal on its hands and one of his most high-profile critics, Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon. Mayo said he didn't regret his actions at the end of the state title game, but wanted to clear up his intentions.

"I'd like to apologize to South Charleston and whoever felt that I was showing bad sportsmanship," Mayo said. "I didn't mean to do it in a bad way or to show up the other team. I feel like I was in the seventh grade for my first varsity game. Now it was like, 'Wow, I'm done.' I almost shed a tear. It was a lot of mixed emotions."

Mayo, who began playing varsity basketball in the seventh grade at Rose Hill Christian (Ashland, Ky.), also wanted to give the fans in his native West Virginia something to remember him by.

"It's my hometown," Mayo said. "I had a lot of support. They uplifted me when they could've looked down on me. I was showing them a lot of love and showing them I appreciated it."

He also showed a desire to mend fences with Wilbon, who harshly criticized Mayo for his actions against South Charleston and the way in which he handled his USC recruitment.

"I would like to sit down and talk with Michael Wilbon," Mayo said. "I have nothing to hide. If we have to sit down or however he would like to do it, hopefully I could change his mind about what he thinks of me."

The day after Wilbon's comments, USC coach Tim Floyd went on Pardon the Interruption to defend his star recruit, something Mayo appreciated.

"I didn't see it because I was working out, but I got a few phone calls about it," Mayo said. "I talked to coach Floyd the next day and told him, 'Thanks a lot for helping me out,' because some of the things that were said about me were not true."

Mayo also addressed rumors that there must have been some breach of NCAA rules to get him to sign with the Trojans.

"Everyone feels they have to go to a top school, but I want to make my mark somewhere," Mayo said. "This is the first I've heard of (those rumors), but I'd like to take care of that now. I haven't gotten any benefits. I still live in the same house, my mom still drives the same car and has the same job."

Mayo remains close with Rodney Guillory, an L.A.-based advisor/family friend whose relationship with former players Tito Maddox (Fresno State) and Jeff Trepagnier (USC) led to suspensions for the players several years ago because Guillory was determined to have been working as a runner for an agent.

"I'm 3,000 miles from home," Mayo said. "I have a brother and sister back home, so my mom can't come with me. So (Guillory's) someone who I know. You want to be as comfortable as you can."

On staying at USC for just one year: "I don't really like to think ahead like that. When you're looking ahead, something can hit you in the chest. I just take everything as it comes and if I feel my year was successful enough, then maybe so."

On marketing himself in L.A.: "It's a marketing world out there. It's a good opportunity to meet a lot of business people and learn how they do things."

On playing in the McDonald's game: "Here, there are no egos because everyone's the same. Everyone's the man of their town and state. You can drop your guard and be comfortable."

With this year's McDonald's All-Americans arriving throughout the day on Saturday, one of the first things they were able to do together was watch the Georgetown-North Carolina regional final on Sunday night.

As the Hoyas made their furious run to win the game in overtime, two All-Americans in particular were going crazy. The Georgetown-bound duo of St. John's (Washington, D.C.) point guard Chris Wright and DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) shooting guard Austin Freeman were cheering as if they were heading to the Final Four.

"Me and Austin were jumping up and down with every basket," Wright said.

With Georgetown now facing Ohio State on Saturday, Wright, Freeman and others started some playful trash talk with GlenOak (Canton, Ohio) center and Buckeyes signee Kosta Koufos. "Everyone's been giving me a hard time about Ohio State losing to Georgetown," Koufos said. "And I'm just like, 'You know what? We'll see.'"

With Lake Oswego (Ore.) center Kevin Love's college of choice, UCLA, still alive, he couldn't resist taking a few jabs at future Pac-10 rival O.J. Mayo, whose USC Trojans were bounced in the Sweet 16. And he started the minute he saw him this week.

"It's funny because when my family and I had a layover in Cincinnati, and we were going to come to Louisville, [Mayo] hopped right on the bus that took us to our plane," Love said. "And I was like, 'What's up O.J.? What happened to your boys? You see that UCLA's still in it, right?' "But it's all in good fun."

On the girls' side, Tennessee recruits Kelley Cain of St. Pius X (Atlanta), Angie Bjorklund of University (Spokane, Wash.) and Vicki Baugh of Sacramento (Sacramento, Calif.) were thrilled with their team's run. Rutgers signee Khadijah Rushdan of St. Elizabeth (Wilmington, Del.) was loving her team's trip to the Final Four, while LSU-bound Tyra White of Hickman Mills (Kansas City, Mo.) saw her Tigers upset UConn in the regional finals.

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