Unintended Consequences: The Next OJ

If recent reports prove true, O.J. Mayo, regarded by many as the top recruit in the Class of 2007, plans to commit to USC.


"I'll take Leinart's apartment, Reggie's house for my folks, and ..."

This news seems to have Trojans all abuzz, with talk of USC adding "stature" and a "national image" along with Mayo.  According to the Daily News:

The stature of USC basketball could take a major leap forward this week, because guard O.J. Mayo, the nation's No. 1-ranked player, is expected to commit to the Trojans, according to sources.
...

Mayo's commitment would shake up college basketball and give USC a national image in a sport usually overshadowed by football.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, fellas.  Sure, if Mayo commits to SC, Tim Floyd's crew will get more attention, and Mike Garrett will use him to hype the Galen Center.  But it won't be the good kind of attention, and there's unlikely to be much lasting impact.  First off, Mayo's reasons for reportedly choosing the Trojans have everything to do with the NBA, and less to do with SC.  According to Wolf:

Mayo wants to play in a big media market like Los Angeles to set up endorsement opportunities for his potential NBA career.  He was impressed with USC winning three of the past four Heisman trophies and the high-profile assumed by football players Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

He also wants to establish a basketball program as a national power.

Several sources said Mayo would like to create a scenario similar to when center Patrick Ewing committed to Georgetown and took the Hoyas to the national title game his freshman year.

He wants to work with a former NBA coach, and USC's Tim Floyd previously coached the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets.

He also reportedly wants to learn teamwork, do the little things, focus on team defense, and spend time with his buddies in the dorms.  I'm not sure where I heard that; somewhere I'm sure.  Sounds like a humble guy.

Kidding aside, it's no secret that Mayo is going to college, for exactly one year, because he has to.  Both Mayo's decision to go to school, and his choice of schools, is driven by this.  Another Daily News writer calls this the unintended consequences of a well-meant attempt by the NBA to raise basketball's maturity level.

What's going to happen is that teenage stars are going to go to college because they have no choice. They're going to go for one season and only one season and then start cashing those Milwaukee Bucks paychecks. They're going to go to a school whose basketball program has nothing to lose, in a big city to maximize the name-recognition factor, with a coach qualified to offer NBA career guidance.

That is, they're going to be Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo, said to be eyeing several colleges, including USC, which has never had a basketball recruit this good, which affords the natural marketing advantages of Los Angeles, and which is coached by former Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets boss Tim Floyd.

Of course, this raises the larger question about the system that has gotten us here.  If you ask me, college basketball wasn't meant to the a forced one-year waiting room for the NBA.  If kids have the skill and the ambition, let them go and get paid for it.  Or, if you genuinely want to raise the maturity level in the NBA, impose meaningful eligibility rules that will keep kids in school (or overseas, if they really want the dough) for more than a year.  But the middle ground is like beige, a compromise meant to appease everyone, that fails to please anyone.  A college basketball purgatory that is bad for everyone.

That said, I can't say I blame either Mayo or USC.  Mayo is at the mercy of a new NBA rule that limits his options (the same rule that likely convinced Farmar to enter the draft this year, by the way).  And the Trojans would be foolish not to take him, particularly after the tragic loss of Ryan Francis, and academic ineligibility of Gabe Pruitt.  Though I would caution Floyd to impose more discipline than his football counterpart given Mayo's controversial history:

There has also been some controversy. Mayo has been involved in two altercations and was suspended last spring following an incident with a female student.

But, in the end, if Mayo commits to USC, will that meaningfully change the college hoops dynamic in Los Angeles?  No.  He's one kid, however talented.  He'll stay one year.  Everyone knows why.  And even if OJ convinces Bill Walker, or another highly touted one-and-done recruit to come to South Central, a couple kids more concerned about their stats and their shoe deals won't ever seriously challenge a UCLA team under Ben Howland that has shown itself to be one of the elite teams, not just in the West, but in the nation.

So, I say bring it on OJ.  Bring Billy and Aaron with you too.  It will be amusing to watch.  It may also force the east coast-centric media to see what's happening out West, including the resurgence of UCLA and Arizona's slow fade into irrelevance.  Just know this: it won't change the outcome.

GO BRUINS.

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