Wednesday, July 5, 2006 Updated: July 6, 3:43 PM ET
Sources: O.J. Mayo told USC staff he was committing
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
O.J. Mayo, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2007, told the USC coaching staff and players last week that he would commit to the Trojans, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
The 6-foot-4 Mayo, perhaps as recognizable a high school recruiting name as LeBron James and Greg Oden, made the statement during his unofficial recruiting visit last week in Los Angeles. He has yet to make that sentiment public, but could do so this weekend at the Reebok ABCD Camp on the Fairleigh Dickinson campus in Teaneck, N.J.
Wherever Mayo lands, he will make an immediate splash.
High school recruits often say one thing to appease a coaching staff, then sign with another school during the fall and spring signing periods. But multiple sources told ESPN.com that the Trojans are awaiting public word from Mayo. Even after he makes an announcement, though, the Trojans aren't guaranteed anything until Mayo signs a national letter of intent with USC. The earliest that can happen is during the November signing period.
NCAA rules forbid college coaches from commenting publicly on commitments until they receive a signed national letter of intent. That said, if Mayo orally commits to USC this weekend -- or anytime before the fall -- he could immediately go down as the most significant recruit in USC basketball history.
Mayo still could consider other alternatives instead of going to college in the fall of 2007. There is a possibility he play professionally overseas for a year or compete in a barnstorming tour with other high-profile players who are prohibited from entering the NBA draft until they are at least 19 years old and one year out of high school. Details of possible moves like this are expected to be explored in September.
Still, those would be unchartered waters. The more traditional approach for Mayo would be to do what Oden did: go to school for at least one year. Oden chose Ohio State and is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft if he declares. Mayo, who is still scheduled to finish his high school career at North College Hill in Cincinnati, is a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2008 if he were to declare.
"[Mayo] could change a program and give it instant credibility," said one source. "He sees the big market and knows that he's not too far away from being marketed. [Going to USC] would only help him and he's confident enough to win a national championship."
The assumption for more than a year was that Mayo would go to Cincinnati if Bob Huggins were still employed there, or follow him to wherever he landed, which ended up being Kansas State. Multiple sources told ESPN.com, though, that USC coach Tim Floyd received a phone call in November in which he was told Mayo was interested in joining the Trojans.
Mayo then played in an event in Los Angeles in December, with reports surfacing that he was interested in a West Coast school. The assumption at the time was that it was UCLA, but by December, it had been made clear to USC that it was the Trojans, not the Bruins, who were in the hunt.
Multiple sources said that Mayo wanted to be in a major media market and that he told the USC staff he didn't want to be just another name at a school like Duke or North Carolina. He wanted to win big, go to the NBA and already have been marketed in a media center. Sources also said that Mayo was very aware of the attention USC's back-to-back Heisman winners, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, received the past two seasons.
"He's a little bit different for a kid his age," a source said.
ESPN.com was unable to reach Mayo for comment.
Mayo was in Los Angeles last Wednesday to Friday. He met with the coaching staff, played with USC's returning players on campus and had a conversation with USC athletic director Mike Garrett. Mayo also met with Floyd for the first time. A source said Floyd has only talked to Mayo a handful of times, during which Mayo has expressed his interest in playing at USC.
That's what makes this even more of a coup for the Trojans, assuming it becomes official. Even though he coached in the NBA at Chicago and New Orleans, Floyd has only had one highly rated freshman in his college career -- Marcus Fizer, while he was at Iowa State.
The timing of Mayo's commitment couldn't come at a better time for the Trojans. USC is still emotionally spent after dealing with the tragic death of freshman point guard Ryan Francis, and also needs to overcome the loss of star shooting guard Gabe Pruitt, who is academically ineligible for the first semester. The Trojans are also opening their new arena, the Galen Center, this fall.
A Mayo commitment may lead to another major coup if teammate and close friend Bill Walker, another top-10 player in the class of 2007, were to follow Mayo to USC. The two have said for the past two years that they would play together in college.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.