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Mayo is winner in two courts

USC recruit gets a ruling that puts suspension on hold, then helps beat Artesia on Duke's floor.

January 31, 2007|Guy Loranger | Special to The Times

DURHAM, N.C. — O.J. Mayo, one of the most heralded recruits in USC basketball history, went from the courtroom to Cameron Indoor Stadium in a span of eight hours Tuesday, scoring 19 points to rally Huntington (W.Va.) to a 73-66 victory over Lakewood Artesia in a showdown between nationally ranked high school teams.

Mayo's surprise appearance came after Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy beat Santa Ana Mater Dei, 77-74, in a battle between future Blue Devils -- Mater Dei's 6-foot-7 Taylor King and Oak Hill's 6-2 Nolan Smith -- in another game at the Durham HoopHall Classic.

On Tuesday, Cabell County (W.Va.) Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon granted a temporary restraining order to Mayo, a 6-5 senior who is considered to be one of the nation's top players in his class, and five of his teammates.

O'Hanlon set hearings for the players for Feb. 9 and barred West Virginia athletic officials from imposing suspensions until a decision is made on the players' procedural rights to appeal the penalties.

Mayo was cleared to play shortly after noon, according to his attorney, Mike Woelfel, who also is a Huntington assistant coach. Mayo then hopped on a plane and made it to Duke's campus one hour before tip-off.

Mayo received two technical fouls Friday, and he was ejected, during his team's 77-64 victory over Charleston (W.Va.) Capital. Video replays showed that Mayo followed referee Mike Lazo to the scorer's table and made negligible contact with the official, who then dropped to the floor.

West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission rules require a two-game suspension for any player who receives two technical fouls.

A player who "in protest lays hands or attempts to lay hands upon an official" can be declared ineligible for up to one year.

Mayo's teammates were suspended for leaving the bench area.

The distractions brought on by the suspensions of Mayo and his teammates, who also were cleared to play Tuesday, seemed to have an effect in the early going on Huntington (16-0), ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.

Artesia's Renardo Sidney, a 6-10 sophomore who was coming off a three-game suspension for what his coach, Loren Grover, called "a team situation," scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half, and Mayo's future Trojans teammate, Malik Story, scored 12 of his 21 points in the first half as the 11th-ranked Pioneers (20-2) took a 40-30 lead by halftime.

But Mayo scored five of his team's points in a 10-0 run in the third quarter that tied the score at 49-49.

Mayo fouled out with 2:40 left and only 16 seconds after his exit, Jamal Williams made a go-ahead three-point shot, and 6-8 Duke recruiting target Patrick Patterson slammed in a rebound, sending the Highlanders on their way.

"We're like a family.... When it's adverse, we get closer together," Mayo said. "When I fouled out, I had no worries. They were prepared to play a whole game without me."

The loss came at the end of a grueling stretch for Artesia, which will play Suburban League foe La Mirada tonight in its fifth game in six days. Grover, however, downplayed fatigue as a factor in his team's second-half performance.

"O.J. wants his shots, and I think a lot of times their offense gets a little stagnant," Grover said. "[In the second half], they started doing the stuff they like to do -- really pound it inside, kick outs for threes ... "

USC Coach Tim Floyd said he had neither seen the widely circulated video footage of the technical fouls nor had he spoken with Mayo, though Trojans assistant Bob Cantu had traveled to Durham to watch Mayo and several other recruits.

"He's a young guy and he's going to have a myriad of experiences," Floyd said. "His coach and O.J. can handle this experience I'm sure, and he'll grow from all of them because he's a very bright guy."

While Mayo's appearance was the buzz along press row, most of the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd was on hand to see King's Mater Dei (22-2), the nation's No. 6-ranked team, and Smith's No. 3-ranked Oak Hill (28-1).

King thrilled the Blue Devils' fans by hitting four of his six three-point shots and scoring 20 of his 32 points in the first half -- with most of those points coming with Smith guarding him.

Smith finished with 14 points and USC recruit Brandon Jennings, a 6-2 junior guard, added 13 points and six assists.

*

Times staff writer Ben Bolch and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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