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Mayo's agent denies player accepted cash or gifts for play at USC

USC BASKETBALL

The player, now in the NBA was 'in the dark' about Guillory's actions while at USC and school did not contact him before sanctions, Smith says.

January 07, 2010|By Lance Pugmire

O.J. Mayo did not accept gifts or money while being recruited by or playing for USC, the player's agent said Wednesday.

LaPoe Smith also said the NCAA, Pacific 10 Conference and officials from the school have not attempted to contact Mayo since August, when the former Trojans and current Memphis Grizzlies star became his client.

USC on Sunday announced self-imposed sanctions on the Trojans men's basketball program, citing rules violations involving Mayo and Rodney Guillory, a former advisor to the player who the school referred to as a "booster."

The university, conference and NCAA have been investigating the USC program since allegations surfaced in 2008 that a player agent had paid Guillory more than $200,000 and that part of that money had been funneled to Mayo in the form of cash, clothing and a television.

The accusation was made by Louis Johnson, a former associate of Guillory and friend of Mayo, who later said USC Coach Tim Floyd had also delivered an envelope stuffed with money to Guillory.

Floyd, who resigned as USC's coach last summer, has denied wrongdoing. He is now an assistant coach with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets. Guillory could not be reached for comment.

"O.J. Mayo was totally in the dark about anything happening inappropriately at USC," said Smith, who described himself as a longtime member of Mayo's inner circle. "He always wanted to go to USC, and it had nothing to do with Rodney Guillory. . . . O.J. just wanted to come to California, and whatever Rodney did to manipulate the situation he did on his own."

In USC's statement announcing the punishment, Athletic Director Mike Garrett attributed the sanctions to "Mayo's involvement with Rodney Guillory."

Because of the violation, USC said it was vacating the 21 victories and postseason check the team earned in 2007-08, Mayo's one season as a Trojan. The program is also banned from any postseason tournament this year and is reducing scholarships and recruiting time and resources.

Asked for his reaction to the announcement by a reporter Tuesday, before he scored 27 points in a Memphis victory at Portland, Mayo said, "Save your breath. . . . You can contact my agent if you would like to. I'm not really commenting on it right now."

Smith said Mayo would cooperate in an investigation if he was given specific information to respond to.

"We can't talk about innuendoes," the agent said. "Louis Johnson is a street guy. You want O.J. to justify that? . . . We're not going to do that. Provide us with some information. . . . They have to put this information on the table."

USC spokesman James Grant said, "We make good-faith efforts to interview every person who could assist in an investigation, but we cannot talk in specifics about who we have interviewed."

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said, "Both USC and the NCAA attempted to obtain the cooperation of all involved parties, some without success."

Smith said Mayo was "undisturbed" by the scandal left in his wake, but added, "He never wanted to hurt the university. He loves USC. No money coerced him to come, he just loved California.

"Did O.J. take anything from Rodney Guillory? No.

"How do we feel about what has happened at USC? USC did what it had to do."

Smith also said he was not aware of a connection between Mayo and Scott Schenter, a Santa Monica businessman whose relationship with a star USC football player is being investigated.

Schenter is the registered owner of a 2006 Land Rover that was recently being driven by Joe McKnight, the Trojans starting tailback. Schenter is also the registered owner of a 1992 Mazda Miata that he equipped with a vanity license plate, OJMAYO.

Schenter said in California Department of Motor Vehicles records obtained by The Times that a company refurbished the car with a new gold paint job, tires and a modified interior and exterior. A DMV official said Schenter applied for the personalized plate in May 2007 and took possession in September 2007.

USC held McKnight out of the Trojans' Emerald Bowl victory against Boston College last month while it investigated his relationship with Schenter, who has marketing interests in his background.

Schenter at one time owned the Internet domain names 4joemcknight.com and ojaymayo.com. USC spokesman Grant said he "had never heard" of any link between Schenter and Mayo.

Smith said he doesn't believe Mayo knows Schenter.

Contacted by telephone at his office this week, Schenter said he has been advised by his attorney not to talk.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

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