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.