By now nearly everyone knows the name. Now college basketball fans across the country are learning about his game.
It didn’t take players on the 4th ranked Jayhawks long after Wednesday night’s dismantling of Florida Atlantic to look ahead to their first road test and Sunday matchup against one of the nation’s finest freshmen, O.J. Mayo.
“We know we’ve got a big matchup with O.J. Mayo coming up, and we just want to work on our defense,” Mario Chalmers said. “And I think that’s how Arizona stayed in the game with us, because our defense, we couldn’t stop Chase (Budinger) and we couldn’t keep them off the boards, so we just tried to do a better job of that tonight.”
Apparently it’s never to early to start devising a plan when you’re readying to face one of the best around and possibly this year’s version of Kevin Durant.
“He’s a pretty good player, but I think we’ve just got to keep somebody on him at all times, don’t let him get open shots, make every shot he takes tough,” continued KU guard Mario Chalmers who may spend some time guarding Mayo. “We know we can make an even bigger name for ourselves if we can stop O.J. and stop USC, and they know they can make a big name for themselves if they beat us, so it’s competition.”
6-5 O.J. Mayo has been the talk of Tinseltown and beyond since the 7th grade. Only LeBron James high school hype equaled Huntington High School’s Mayo. So far, Mayo has lived up to the billing with USC is off to a 6-1 start under head coach Tim Floyd. The West Virginia native is leading the Trojans in scoring averaging just over 21 points a game, he’s the team’s best in steals (12), and is second on the team in rebounding (4.9 rpg).
“O.J.’s terrific. He could be the best player we’ll play against all year. He could be. But there are a lot of guys like that, but he’s that good,” said KU head coach Bill Self.
Mayo has the ability to take over a game and plays in spurts. Thursday vs. Oklahoma, the future pro scored 11 straight points to open up a tight game against the Oklahoma Sooners. 15 of his 18 points came in the second half. This freshman is fearless with the game on the line and appears to thrive as the pressure increases. If there’s a knock on him at times he’s a bit careless with the basketball, and his shot selection can be spotty, but his supreme ability more than makes up for any shortcomings.
You certainly need a game plan to face the ultra-talented Mayo but the problem is you can’t focus ALL your attention on Mayo. Floyd has assembled enough talent to make sure you game plan to face his team and not just one player. Currently five players average in double figures for Floyd’s Trojans.
"With these guys, you've got size and speed. They are not your typical big guards that are not as quick as little guards. O.J. is as quick as or quicker than anybody on the court with his first step. That will be a big challenge for us. A very big challenge,” said Self.
Fellow frosh Davon Jefferson can also play this game and will wear an NBA uniform in the near future. Jefferson certainly didn’t garner the high school headlines like Mayo but he’s the Trojans second-leading scorer at 13.8 points a game. Jefferson looks more and more comfortable with each passing game and is coming off a 23-point performance against Oklahoma.
Taj Gibson is big, experienced and more than capable of anchoring the middle. He can take you off the dribble, shoot the midrange J, and rebounding with passion. Gibson is just a sophomore and averaging close to a double-double (10.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg).
The one knock on the Trojans? Untimely turnovers, a weakness that certainly plays right into the hands of KU.
The Trojans lost the season-opener to Mercer (96-51) in a shocker at home but since then USC has reeled off quality resume-building wins over teams like Southern Illinois, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. The 22nd ranked Trojans will be KU’s first “ranked” test this season and USC will put its five-game win streak on the line on Sunday.
“They have won fast, they've won grind-it-out games. The most impressive win of our college basketball season so far, by anybody, is their win over SIU (Southern Illinois). They're good. By the end of the season they are going to have a chance to be one of the top ten teams in the county. No question,” said Self in Friday’s press conference.