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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is O.J. Mayo the next Quincy McCall?

Ok, so I was reflecting on the fact that it seems likely - whether by choice or by scandal - that O.J. Mayo isn't going to be in college basketball much longer. The news that he accepted Nuggets tickets from Melo, however harmless it may have been, is a signal that the end is near hardly halfway into his freshman season. I don't think the NCAA can ban him, but it might hasten his exit nonetheless.

Suddenly, I thought of a very similar basketball player. He was the son of an NBAer, and great things were expected from day one. He was a star point guard in high school, and was granted a scholarship to USC. After only one year and a traumatic family event, he went pro. His NBA career was flat, and he was a journeyman player and bench-warmer until he suffered a career-ending injury.

The player I'm talking about is the fictional Quincy McCall, portrayed by Omar Epps in Love & Basketball. He was a tragic figure, one full of promise who could not deliver when he rushed along his path, driven by self-confidence and hype.

Obviously, you can't say the exact same things about Mayo, I just thought it was odd how similar the two can compare at this point in their careers. I don't necessarily think Mayo will be a career backup or that he'll suffer an unfortunate injury, or even that he's leaving for the wrong reasons. But I do sense a dark cloud cast over his head.

I read a New York Times article several months ago describing how Mayo was recruited. Basically, he called USC (who thought they didn't have a chance) and told Tim Floyd that he was coming. It was said that he wanted the media exposure in California and he wanted to build his own legacy at USC.

So far, that's been mixed results. He leads the team in points and steals, and contributes decently in rebounds and assists, but I'm not quite sure he's established himself as the cornerstone of this team. Contrast that with a player like Kevin Love, across the way in UCLA, who is establishing the "Kevin Love era." Or a player like Kevin Durant, dragged his team to the Final Four. I think Mayo was expected to do incredible things, but USC has dropped out of the rankings, and Mayo isn't exactly keeping up with the Michael Beasleys and Derrick Roses of this class, and he definitely isn't making as big a splash as they are in the national eye. USC's upset of UCLA might have helped him a bit, but not a ton.

Obviously, he's still one of the greatest players in the nation, and is doing a lot; all I'm saying is expectations were astronomical, and I think even he expected he would get more attention than he has. Last year, it seemed as though he was touted as the next Durant. Notice to the media: O.J. Mayo is no Kevin Durant.

Here's my main point: I think Mayo has the greatest potential to fail dramatically in his professional career. When things start going wrong for athletes in the transition from college to the pros, there's trouble: Look at Pacman Jones, Marcus Vick or Maurice Clarett for the extreme examples of this. Even small-time scandals can cause problems, especially for a player under national scrutiny like Mayo. I think everyone should let him breathe, but if you watch his play over the next couple games and how he conducts himself when responding to the charges. You might get a glimpse of whether his future is bright or whether it's a stack of cards built up by the media and the hype machine, ready to tumble.

No matter what happens, I think everyone can agree with this: Sanaa Lathan was hot in that movie.

1 comment:

JC said...

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