North College Hill threw a party for its Division III state title-winning basketball team Tuesday night, but star player O.J. Mayo, one of the best high school basketball players in the country, did not attend.
According to Bill Walker, a member of the North College Hill team, Mayo has been suspended from school as a result of getting into a fight.
The suspension was confirmed by two NCH sources and a member of the NCH school board.
The sources would not say whether the length of Mayo's suspension has been established. A local TV station reported Monday that Mayo had been suspended for 180 days. That figure, the sources said, is not accurate.
Walker also said the 180-day figure is incorrect.
"He (Mayo) got into a fight and got suspended for 10 days," Walker said. "It wasn't 180 days. I don't know where that came from."
NCH superintendent Gary Gellert and principal Kelly Hughes both said the school cannot comment on student disciplinary matters.
Gellert, Hughes and several other school officials, including athletic director Joe Nickel and head coach Jamie Mahaffey, repeatedly have declined to answer questions about Mayo.
Walker said he expected Mayo back in school before the end of the school year.
As for next season, Mayo is considering a transfer to Oak Hill Academy (Va.). Oak Hill officials are aware of his suspension at NCH and indicated it could impact whether Mayo might be accepted to Oak Hill.
Walker, a junior whose eligibility for next season is under review by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, also stayed away from Tuesday night's celebration.
Nickel would not comment on Mayo, but said Walker stayed home Tuesday night after a reporter had interviewed Walker at school earlier.
"Bill did not come tonight because he knew there would be reporters here, and he said he's tired of dealing with the media," Nickel said.
Tuesday's event, held in the NCH gymnasium, was attended by about 150 NCH fans and was hosted by North College Hill mayor Dan Brooks.
"I don't know the details, but I know (Mayo) is suspended," Brooks said, just before the rally began. "I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about what is going on, but tonight we're here to celebrate the team."
And celebrate they did. Ten NCH players took the basketball court Tuesday night to cheers from the crowd. Chairs were arranged on the basketball court for the players and coaches and cheerleaders. Brooks and NCH City Council members also were seated at chairs on the court.
Several awards and trophies were presented, and the Trojans' 2006 state title trophy - won last month - had a place of honor on a table at midcourt. Brooks and council also passed an ordinance that renamed Kumler Avenue - which runs off Galbraith Road to the high school - as "Trojan Way."
Brooks also referred to the intense media scrutiny NCH's team has received.
The Trojans finished No. 3 nationally in the USA Today poll but are under a national media microscope, with a season of injuries, illnesses and transfer rumors.
"You shouldn't apologize for being good," Brooks said, addressing NCH players as the crowd listened Tuesday. "Be proud of it ... I'm proud of you, and the North College Hill is proud of you."
Mayo and Walker were not the only players who did not show. Starting point guard Damon Butler (ill) and regular forward Andre Evans also were not there, although Evans' mother accepted some awards for her son.
Paul Leary, a senior forward, said the scene was a bit odd without junior superstars Mayo and Walker.
"It's strange that O.J. isn't here," Leary said. "He's always at the big events, right in the middle of things. I don't know what's going on."
Mayo this season won his second consecutive Ohio Mr. Basketball award. He has averaged between 27 and 30 points each of his three seasons at NCH, and is widely rated the No. 1 high school junior player in America.
Walker is generally rated among the top five juniors by most scouts, and this year he averaged 21.7 points while sharing Ohio Division III Player of the Year honors with Mayo. Mayo this year also repeated as a first-team USA Today All-American.