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Mayo is good kid, Floyd says

The USC coach says his prized recruit has made mistakes but has dealt well with heavy scrutiny.

March 23, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — USC Coach Tim Floyd defended star recruit O.J. Mayo against media criticism Thursday, portraying him as a humble kid who had handled the intense scrutiny surrounding him "remarkably well."

Mayo, a 19-year-old senior at Huntington (W.Va.) High who signed with the Trojans in November, has been assailed for a three-game suspension, a marijuana citation that was later dropped and, more recently, a showboating incident in which he hurled a basketball into the stands after a dunk.

"Has he made a mistake or two? Yeah," Floyd said of Mayo, who was also suspended three times while attending Cincinnati North College Hill High, twice for fighting and once for academic issues.

"He got in a couple of fights. I got in a couple of fights when I was in high school, too. He got a couple of [technical fouls], I got a couple in high school, too. But that doesn't make him a bad kid."

Floyd said USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett was effusive in his praise for Mayo after meeting the teenager during his official visit to campus in November.

"Mike walked out of the office and told me, 'In all of my years of doing this, he's the most impressive kid who's ever been in this office,' " Floyd said. "And I'm talking about [Reggie] Bush and [Matt] Leinart and you can go right down the road."

Floyd said he would encourage anyone who wanted to find out the truth about Mayo "to call his teachers, to call his coaches, to call his teammates and find out how he treats the people around him, because he's a good kid."

Floyd also said if he had his way, Mayo would bypass USC and go directly to the NBA.

"If he's as good as we think he's going to be next year, I don't want the responsibility of him coming in and tearing up a knee like Shaun Livingston did with the Clippers because this kid doesn't have anything," Floyd said. "And I think he deserves the right to go make a living and change his life and his family's life versus us putting a rule in that states that he has to be here for a year."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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