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Mayo impressive at Huntington High

December 31, 2006|From the Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.VA. — O.J. Mayo left West Virginia five years ago to elevate his game. The stage he wanted for his senior year of high school, it turns out, was back home.

The 6-foot-5 prep star has been reunited with childhood friends at Huntington High. Just as he did at his previous stop in Ohio, he's helped turn a school into a national contender.

It's the next step in Mayo's clinic, an array of dunks and three-pointers that moves to USC next season in what could be a short steppingstone to the NBA.

"I plan on making a living at this. I know that's going to be a lot of hard work and determination," Mayo said. "But I feel like that's why I was born and put on this Earth, to be a leader, to be one of the greatest basketball players to ever play and to be a great example and role model for the kids and for different people out there who look up toward me."

The two-time Mr. Basketball for Ohio, considered the nation's top high school senior, has averaged 32 points in his first four games for Huntington, all blowout wins. He's been the draw everywhere he goes but not the only talent.

Some scouting publications have placed three Huntington players among the top 150 college recruits. And Huntington's top six all could receive Division I scholarships.

"Most of your teams that are ranked in the top 10 in the nation, they're not all from that same town," said Huntington coach Lloyd McGuffin. "Our guys are all from the same town. We're a true high school team."

Maybe the best ever in West Virginia. The state has produced the Miami Heat's Jason Williams -- who teamed with future NFL star Randy Moss yet never won a state championship -- and NBA Hall of Famers Jerry West and Huntington native Hal Greer. But never before has an entire team brought such attention.

Huntington is ranked in the top five nationally by Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Prep Nation.

It plays in a 16-team conference, so there wasn't much chance after Mayo's enrollment in September to schedule nonconference games. But there are a few -- against powers such as Maryland-based DeMatha.

"We have a goal to be the No. 1 team in the country," Mayo said. "We understand we do have a target on our back, and we're here to take on all comers."

Mayo's mother, Alisha, a Huntington High graduate, initially didn't want her son to follow in her footsteps out of fear he wouldn't get help in landing a basketball scholarship. As a seventh-grader, Mayo was recruited to play high school basketball at a private school in nearby Ashland, Ky.

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