Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Where are they now: O.J. Mayo
By Pedro Moura
Former USC guard O.J. Mayo, who spent only one season with the Trojans in 2007-2008, averaged 11 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 2010-2011, more than seven points off his rookie-season pace.
O.J. Mayo spent only one season with the Trojans, a tumultuous one that did not reach its high expectations. His post-college career has been similar, a downward-trending three-year stint thus far that has put his future with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies into question.
He was perhaps the most decorated basketball recruit in USC history, and he led the Trojans to an impressive No. 6 seed in the 2008 NCAA tournament. But, regarding USC lore, that's about the only glory he has attached to his name.
Let's review Mayo's past, present and where he could be going in the second edition of a weekly feature appearing Tuesdays on the USC report:
Regardless of how Mayo got to Los Angeles, on the court, his first -- and only -- season in L.A. was a study in contrasts. Personally, he was successful. As a team, the Trojans were productive and efficient in stints but disappointing overall.
His numbers were good: 20.7 points, 3.3 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game, 41 percent 3-point shooting, only 30 missed free throws all season. But he also had a few memorably bad clunkers in important games, including a miserable four-point, 10-turnover day in a home loss to UCLA in February of 2008.
After that game, it seemed Mayo tried to take control of the rest of the season's games early and let his shot ride him through any struggles. That worked sometimes -- like the next week against Oregon, when he scored 32 points -- but not in a 6-16 shooting day in the Pac-10 semis against the Bruins and not enough in a 20-point performance when the Trojans were upset by Michael Beasley and Kansas State in the first round of NCAA's.
Mayo was drafted third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves after his one season at USC and was then dealt to Memphis in a draft-day trade as part of a multi-player deal for fifth pick Kevin Love and others.
He immediately became the Grizzlies' No. 2 scorer, putting up 18.5 points per game that year as a 21-year-old rookie and leading the team in minutes. Those per-game numbers experienced a slight drop the next season, but his shooting percentage and turnover rate both improved considerably, a positive from Memphis' perspective.
But Mayo's minutes decreased a ton by January and the Grizzlies made it known he was an available commodity as the trade deadline approached in mid-February. And Memphis, in fact, ended up agreeing to a deal to send Mayo to the Indiana Pacers at the deadline -- but it turned out to be too late, the teams missing the NBA-mandated deadline by a matter of minutes.
And so he stayed with the Grizzlies as a reserve, averaging only 22 minutes per game after the deadline and struggled to produce the double-digit point nights that had been customary in his past.
Luckily for Mayo -- and Memphis -- the now-23-year-old guard experienced a bit of a rebirth during the Western Conference semifinals. Going head-to-head with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 6-4 shooter found his outside stroke once again and helped the Grizzlies push the series all the way to seven games with consecutive 18-point games in the crucial third and fourth games.
The Grizzlies lost, sure, but Mayo proved his worth to a team playing without its top swingman, Rudy Gay, throughout the postseason.
Mayo's under contract for next season at nearly $6 million per season, and Memphis also has the opportunity to retain him for 2012-13 for $7.4 million.
With Gay entrenched as a scoring swingman with a contract more than twice the size of Mayo's, will the Grizzlies try to deal the USC product this offseason? For what it's worth, Mayo told Memphis reporters after the Grizzlies' Sunday loss to Oklahoma City that he hoped to return to the Grizzlies next season.