NCH's Mayo ponders transfer
Basketball star visited Oak Hill
BY DUSTIN DOW AND TOM GROESCHEN | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
O.J. Mayo, one of the best high school basketball players in the country, might not return to North College Hill High School for his senior season.
According to a source, Mayo visited Oak Hill Academy, a prep school in Mouth of Wilson, Va., Thursday, shot baskets in the school's gymnasium and is considering transferring to the school.
Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith did not comment Friday. Joe Nickel, NCH's athletic director, said Mayo still is enrolled at his school.
"I don't have any information to say no or yes, but I've been hearing this (transfer rumor) a lot more than in the past," Nickel said. "That's a family issue, and I have no information on it."
The source said Mayo plans to finish the academic year at NCH before publicizing a decision about his intentions for next season.
Mayo was unavailable for comment.
Oak Hill is a perennial powerhouse, with 17 former players drafted by the NBA in the past 20 years. With a record of 40-1, it finished No. 2 in USA Today's boys' basketball rankings this season. North College Hill was third, losing only to Oak Hill, 88-74 in February.
The Trojans, who have won the past two Ohio Division III state titles, might not be the only team to lose Mayo. He is in Houston this weekend, playing in a tournament for the Miami Tropics, a summer-league team.
This is significant because it represents a split - at least temporarily - from the summer-league team that Mayo has been playing for: the North College Hill D-I Greyhounds, who are coached by Mayo's guardian, Dwaine Barnes.
"O.J. has known of our program, and he wanted to play in this tournament," Art Alvarez, Miami Tropics coach, said. "He looked at the teams playing, and he chose us."
Alvarez said Mayo's switch to the Tropics could be permanent.
"We'll see how it goes from there," Alvarez said.
Alvarez is close friends with former University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, now coach of Kansas State. The Tropics' roster includes 7-foot-2 center Jason Bennett, who will play at Kansas State next season.
Alvarez said his relationship with Huggins and a Huggins assistant, Frank Martin - who is a former UC assistant - helped attract Mayo.
Mayo has said Kansas State is on his list of possible colleges.
Huggins first established a relationship with Mayo and Barnes when Huggins was at UC. Huggins left UC in August.
Citing NCAA rules that prohibit him from speaking publicly about unsigned prospects, Huggins declined to comment on Mayo Friday.
The Tropics are sponsored by Nike, as are Oak Hill Academy and Kansas State.
Reebok sponsors the Greyhounds, and NCH plays in Reebok uniforms.
Alvarez said Mayo's decision to play for Miami "isn't about the shoes."
Said Alvarez: "O.J. doesn't have a contract with Reebok. These kids aren't professionals. From what I understand, he just doesn't want to play with (the D-I Greyhounds)."
Barnes did not return messages left on his cell phone.
Leon Murray, who starred for NCH in the 1970s, is a friend and mentor to Mayo and said he is unaware that Mayo wants to leave.
Mayo, who transferred to NCH from Rose Hill (Ky.) Christian in spring 2003, broke Murray's NCH career scoring mark this past season.
"He's told me personally his goal is to win three straight (Division III) state titles (at NCH)," Murray said.
Should Mayo decide to play at Oak Hill next season, fans might get a glimpse of the future of Kansas State basketball. One of Oak Hill's top returning players, Michael Beasley, publicly has listed KSU as his No. 1 choice.
Mayo is ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2007 by Rivals.com, a recruiting Web site that has Beasley listed at No. 3.
HSAA conducts Walker hearing
Eligibility of NCH star in question
BY TOM GROESCHEN | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Bill Walker, as with fellow junior superstar O.J. Mayo, is facing questions about whether he will return to the North College Hill basketball team next season.
While Mayo reportedly mulls a transfer to Oak Hill Academy (Va.), Walker this week attended a hearing with Ohio High School Athletic Association officials regarding Walker's eligibility for the 2006-07 season.
In question is how many semesters Walker will have attended school at NCH, following his transfer from Rose Hill Christian (Ky.) as an eighth-grader.
Bob Goldring, an OHSAA assistant commissioner, confirmed that Walker, at least one Walker family member and NCH representatives appeared before the OHSAA on Thursday. Nothing was decided for now, Goldring said, but indications are Walker will be eligible for the 2006-07 season.
"I can't recall what got the ball rolling on this, but sometime during the winter there was some concern expressed about his eligibility for next year ... in terms of how many semesters he actually has at the high school level," Goldring said. "It became confusing, based on his schooling prior to entering NCH."
NCH athletic director Joe Nickel said he cannot discuss the matter.
OHSAA bylaws stipulate that a student-athlete has eight semesters to participate in athletics, from the time a student begins ninth grade.
Since seventh grade, Walker has attended schools in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. One issue is whether Rose Hill Christian listed him as a ninth-grader when Walker actually was still in eighth grade.
Walker and Mayo wound up at NCH during their eighth-grade year, and the two players first appeared on the NCH varsity roster as freshmen in the 2003-04 season.
The players' ages are not issues. OHSAA bylaws state that a senior athlete cannot turn 19 before Aug. 1 of his senior year, and both Mayo and Walker will turn 19 in autumn 2006.
Walker and Mayo are consensus national top-five rated players in their class, with Mayo listed No. 1 and Walker from No. 2 to No. 4 by top scouting services such as Scout .com and Hoop Scoop.
Walker, a 6-foot-6 power forward, last season averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds in helping lead NCH to its second straight Ohio Division III championship. He was a Parade second-team All-American.
Former University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, now at Kansas State, is rumored to be a front-runner to land Mayo and Walker. Another top Huggins target is 6-8 forward Michael Beasley of Oak Hill Academy, who told the Kansas City Star he is leaning toward K-State.
Beasley also told the Kansas City paper that Walker - and maybe Mayo - could follow.