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May 30, 2008
King: Mayo trying to keep focus on his game
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – He trained Michael Jordan and now works with Dwyane Wade. Still, Tim Grover's resume isn't the only reason O.J. Mayo asked him to aid in his preparation for next month's NBA draft.
"I also love his gym," Mayo said.
Basketball courts, swimming pools, treadmills. Heck, Grover's place in Chicago even has its own barbershop and bedrooms.
"When you get done working out," Mayo said, "you can take a shower, lay down and then work out again. It's the best facility you can possibly work out in. As a basketball player, it's like heaven.
"I spend most of my day at the gym."
Smart move. As much as he needed to train, Mayo knew that isolating himself the last few weeks would probably be in his best interest, following an ESPN report earlier this month that called his character into question.
According to a May 11 story, an agent used a sports promoter to funnel money to Mayo throughout his high school career and during his one season at USC. The high-profile guard has always operated under a spotlight, but never has Mayo faced the kind of scrutiny that's hovered over him during the past month.
Mayo denied the allegations in a press released that was issued shortly after the story broke. Other than that, he had offered no public comment until Thursday, when Mayo was peppered with questions for 30 minutes during a media session at the NBA pre-draft camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
Mayo – who played just one season at USC before entering the draft – said the story caught him off guard.
"I was overwhelmed," he said. "I think I was just more upset that something like that (ran) on Mother's Day. As the oldest son, you don't want to bring that on your mom on Mother's Day. I was totally overwhelmed and didn't understand what was going on."
According to the report, Mayo accepted $30,000 in cash and gifts from Rodney Guillory, a friend and Los Angeles events promoter, before and during his one season at USC. Guillory reportedly got the money from Calvin Andrews – an agent with Bill Duffy Associates – with the understanding that Mayo would sign with the firm upon entering the draft.
Mayo did just that before cutting ties with Andrews and BDA earlier this month in the wake of the story.
"I felt it was best," said Mayo, who has yet to hire a new agent. "I talked to Calvin, and I think it was easier for both us. My main concern right now is preparing for the NBA."
A former Mayo associate, Louis Johnson, is the person who made the accusations in the story. Mayo said he hasn't talked to Johnson since January.
Mayo also said he's yet to be contacted by the NCAA, which is investigating the matter. Mayo has distanced himself from Guillory, although he said Thursday that the two still talk.
"It's not that I'm not seeing him," Mayo said. "I'm preparing for the draft. I've got my eye on the prize. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid. I put everything aside and got back to the basics."
Other than that, Mayo refused to comment any further about his life off the court Frankly, he was rather evasive about his situation on it, too – unless you wanted to hear about how it's always been his "dream" to play in the NBA, the go-to line that Mayo repeated 43 times in a half-hour. Or at least that's what it seemed.
The one thing that seems certain is that Mayo is destined to be a top-10 pick in the June 26 draft, and most prognostications have him in the top five. There's actually been some buzz this week that the Miami Heat could select Mayo with the second overall selection, which would be shocking considering Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose have long been considered locks for the top two spots in the draft.
Mayo has been working out with Wade, the Heat's all-star guard, in Chicago the last few weeks as Wade prepares to compete for Team USA.
"We had lunch (Wednesday) after we worked out," Mayo said. "Dwyane is a great guy – a standup guy that young players should really look to. It's a blessing for me to watch him work out and watch him prepare for the USA team. I'm probably acting like a reporter, because I'm asking him so many questions, just picking his mind. Anything I'm not certain about, I ask him."
Mayo was asked about potentially sharing the backcourt with Wade in Miami. Mayo is known as a point guard, but he played off the ball at USC because coach Tim Floyd wanted him to be able to score more.
"It'd be great to play with him," Mayo said. "I think we'd complement each other. I can play point guard, and obviously Dwyane plays well with the ball. We'd work well together. Some people say I'm a one, others think I'm a two. I'm just a basketball player. I want to be able to master every aspect of the game. Whatever a team needs, I want to be able to do."
NBA teams will get a better look at Mayo during his individual workouts during in the coming weeks. As much as they'll analyze game on the court, Mayo is aware coaches and team executives will be asking him questions about the situation at USC. He said he's fine with that.
"This is a first-time experience for me," Mayo said. "As a kid growing up wanting to be an NBA basketball player, I didn't know you had to sit down with teams and interview. Any questions they have, I'll answer them as best I can."
Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.