News, Notes and Thoughts

Mayo's problems stirs things up, while number of nation's best select college destinations

May 19, 2008

By Van Coleman


Van is one of the nation's premier recruiting experts.


It was just a little over a year ago I wrote about USC and their "Immaculate Reception" of O.J. Mayo's national letter-of-intent, no fanfare, no huge press conference, just an LOI in the mail received by the basketball office.  Not, a major surprise as he was down to just USC and Kansas State at the time.  It was the fact that one of the most visible and heralded high school talents of the past four years did it without all the fanfare everything else in his high school career had been done.


Since that time we found out the improbable way it came about with then-Mayo confidant Rodney Guillory had just walked into the USC basketball offices, unannounced, and told Tim Floyd that O.J was interested in playing for him.  His interest led to a phone call, then a signing, which Mayo followed through on this past year as he played for the Trojans.


But, this past weekend while we were in Tucson, that strange commitment and signing got a new explanation, a scenario that doesn't bode well for Mayo, Guillory, USC and his current agent Bill Duffy if the accusations are true.  The accusations came from an unlikely source, in former Long Beach Telegraph prep writer Louis Johnson.  Johnson said the Mayo received over $30,000 in money and gifts from Bill Duffy Associates through Guillory during high school on through this season at USC.  According to Johnson, who made the accusations to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Guillory had provided the monies as part of over $200,000 that he received from Bill Duffy Associates to deliver Mayo to the agency.  Currently Duffy and Mayo deny any wrong doing, so we will have to see how this all plays out once the investigations are completed.  Without all the evidence we are not going to be judge and jury here.


For USC the problem is only escalated because of the problems that surfaced with former USC football star Reggie Bush, who had a similar problem.  For Coach Floyd and his staff there is a problem, only if the allegations are true, and they had knowledge of the arrangements.  The NCAA will have to determine that in their investigation.  But, the current 19-year old, one-year removed from high school rule may have as much to do with whether this kind of situation becomes more prevalent in the future.


In the past, if a player was slotted to be an NBA draft pick out of high school, the player and his family could borrow versus his future earnings.  Granted he had to be a first round lock, but isn't that the kind of talent we are talking about in Mayo?  It certainly is. The USC guard would have been a lottery pick out of Huntington High a year ago.  But, with that extra year, the temptation for players to listen to alternative methods of having material things may continue to grow as a problem.


How do you control or lessen the problem? Well, some like Sonny Vaccaro, former head of Grassroots basketball for Nike and Reebok, would roll back to the previous structure where players can head to the NBA out of high school. 


"There's no doubt in my mind that players should have the right to move on to the NBA out of high school," Vaccaro said in the past.  "They should have the same opportunity that any other gifted person has in business, acting, the arts, or even other sports.  After-all, you don't see an ice skater denied the opportunity to skate in the Olympics because he or she is in high school, or a baseball player from entering the major leagues."


Know that unlike Sonny, I haven't been an advocate of players heading to the NBA, but have always thought that in most cases the players weren't ready to go to the league, more for the lack of mental maturity, than physical maturity, as the NBA's 100-plus game pre and postseason with all its outside trappings and temptations takes an adult to successfully handle the adjustment.  That's one of the reasons many players who don't survive past their initial contract leave the league without the millions they made.


I have been a proponent of at least two years in college, since all the data points to the average high school entry into the NBA taking two or more years to become a productive pro player.  The LeBron James and Dwight Howard's are the exceptions, not the norm.


But I have come to a realization that the one year rule is just not enough.  Yes, there is always the chance that the next collective bargaining agreement will allow that to happen.  But problems like the ones Mayo and Guillory are accused of have opened up other reasons to look into alternative solutions.  This problem has brought up the need to investigate a change to current rules that can be good for the game overall; especially the players, NBA and the NCAA.  So it would behoove the NBA to re-visit their rule change.


As I said earlier, I'm a proponent of waiting two years after high school, for maturity reasons, before heading to the NBA, but I can see Vaccaro's views and the gifted players who have the opportunity to be drafted as well.  So I think like in every view point there is room for compromise.  So here's some thoughts for the NBA, NCAA and NBA players to ponder.


What about re-opening the NBA draft to high school seniors?  But, the seniors that would be eligible to be drafted would be determined by the NBA teams and put on a list of potential draftees.  After all, the NBA should be the experts on which players are ready to be drafted.  Any players on those lists would then be allowed to enter or refuse to be entered into the draft.  Here's where the NCAA compromise comes in.  Any player who isn't drafted would be allowed to head to a college of his choice, regardless of whether he stayed in the draft.  He would not be considered a pro until he actually works for an NBA team.  Of course, the player would have to meet academic requirements or he would have to enroll in junior college for two years.


If a player wasn't deemed ready to be drafted (or wasn't drafted) then he would have to attend school for two year (or three year baseball rule) before he would become eligible to be drafted again by the NBA.  This is a point that the NBA players would have to make a compromise on and allow the longer period to be re-drafted.  Since it allows the out of high school component (something they didn't willingly give up) it could be a win-win situation for the players and the NBA (owners wanted a minimum of two years before player was eligible for draft) for both sides, as well as the young players it would affect.  Plus it would benefit the NCAA, which is the main feeder system to the NBA, with the stability of having the players for at least two years similar to the junior college transfer rule that allows for two years at a four year institution. 


This may not be the exact model that they use, but it's time to start looking seriously at what's best for the players who make up the components of the game.  Hopefully the powers to be in the NBA, NCAA and NBA players association will re-investigate the draft structure so that problems like the one above can be averted.  So much for my pontificating, let's get back to the major commitments and their affect.


Signings, Transfers and Commitments of Note...


The Louisville Cardinals have added one of the top junior point guards in the country in the No. 30 rated prospect in the Class of 2009 in 6-foot Peyton Siva from Seattle Franklin.  Siva is a stellar floor general who can flat out score from NBA arc on in.  He has a knack for seeing open man and could be future floor leader that leads the Cards to future runs at the Final Four.  Especially if this year's prize recruit Samardo Samuels stays around for a year or two to play with him.


The Arkansas Razorbacks received some bad news a couple weeks ago when 6-foot-7 JUCO super Daniel Payne didn't receive enough credits to graduate this spring.  He left a huge hole in their recruiting class.  But that hole was filled this week by another top 10 junior college talent in 6-foot-6 Montrell McDonald from Cowley County CC (Kan.) who had committed to Texas Tech last month; he changed his mind after visiting Fayetteville last weekend and will sign with the Razorbacks.


The South Florida Bulls received a big addition in 6-foot-10 prep school power forward Teeng Akol from Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.). He has all kinds of offensive tools and could be a poor man's Kevin Durant in college.  He's definitely a player that Stan Heath can build the program around if he qualifies this summer as expected.


The Tennessee Volunteers recently dismissed point guard Ramar Smith, but Bruce Pearl and his staff didn't take long to replace him with the addition of 6-foot-2 JUCO combo Bobby Maze from Hutchinson CC (Kan.).  He was once committed to Maryland before opening up his recruiting in March.  He averaged 21 points and almost 6 assists for Hutch last winter.  He has all the tools to step in and start for the Vols next fall.


The UCLA Bruins have reportedly added 6-foot-11 post man J'Mison Morgan from Dallas South Oak Cliff after he was granted a release by LSU last week.  The 260-pound post man will be a solid replacement for Kevin love who declared for the NBA draft this spring.  He gives the Bruins that one needed ingredient to make a run at a fourth straight final four.


The North Carolina Tar Heels have just lost 6-foot-9 power forward Alex Stephenson who averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds a game in just 14 minutes of action an outing with Carolina.  Reportedly he wants to get closer to family due to help problems in the family.  UCLA, California, Stanford and USC all have potential spots for the talented big man.  The Bruins and Cardinal were among finalists before he chose the Tar Heels.


San Diego State will be the future school of two of the best freshmen in the west, as Pepperdine teammates 6-foot-7 Tyrone Shelley and 6-foot-9 Malcolm Thomas have decided to transfer to the Aztecs after the coaching change in Malibu.  Shelley averaged 15 points a game as a freshman, while Thomas put up almost 13 points and pulled down 8 boards.  They will be immediate starters when they become eligible in the fall of 2009.


We'll be updating our national recruiting rankings now that Devin Ebanks has made his college decision.  He chose West Virginia over Memphis, Texas and Rutgers.


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