SULLIVAN: OJ Mayo not ready to pass torch yet

It was hardly a passing of the torch. O.J. Mayo refused to give anything away easily on Wednesday night at the Reebok ABCD Camp, and that meant precocious rising freshman Lance Stephenson would have to absorb a few lessons from the high scoring guard and top ranked prospect in the Class of 2007 along the way.

Stephenson, a Brooklyn native expected to enroll at Bishop Loughlin in the fall, locked horns with Mayo in a memorable clash won easily by Mayo's 76er team, 85-58.

The buzz started in the second quarter, when Stephenson sauntered past Mayo for a slick deuce that had the partisan New York (and pro Stephenson) crowd howling for more. Some of the throng were foolish enough to berate Mayo after the play, and that only brought out his competitive juices even more.

"The fans were trying to do things to hype us up," Stephenson said. "I've played in the Rucker Tournament before, so it wasn't anything I am not already used to."

Following a Stephenson turnover, Mayo gained control of the basketball as the first half wound down to a close. With ball in hand and just to the left of the three point line, he motioned to Stephenson to come out and defend him.

Stephenson took the bait, and Mayo (shades of Wake Forest's Randolph Childress against North Carolina a decade earlier in the ACC Tournament) buried a three as the buzzer sounded to give the 76ers a 48-34 half-time edge.

Mayo (and much of the Rothman Center!) erupted with emotion after the basket, and the momentum continued to build in the second half as the game got out of hand. It devolved into a full fledged blowout, with technical fouls and less than ideal sportsmanship on both sides.

In the end, Mayo outscored Stephenson 21-16. Following the game, Mayo brushed off the assertion that things got personal between him and Stephenson.

"It was never personal," he said. "I just decided to seize the moment -- that's what the ABCD Camp is all about."

While some tried to compare the moment to the famous LeBron James/Lenny Cooke battle at the 2001 ABCD Camp, that wouldn't be accurate.

James' and Cooke's fortunes went in opposite directions from the moment that game ended. James is now a two-time NBA All-Star and already one of the league's best players. Cooke, on the other hand, is ekeing out a meager existence in the lower rungs of the professional basketball strata.

Mayo's star only continues to get brighter with each passing event, and Stephenson appears poised to carve out a special niche in the Class of 2009.

It's just that Mayo isn't quite ready to relinquish his mantle.

In a show of good sportsmanship following the game, Reebok Grass Roots Director Chris Rivers gathered Mayo, Stephenson and Mayo's teammate William Walker at center court. The players exchanged hugs and tried to set aside any hard feelings that the game's outcome may have generated.

"I just wanted to play and stay focused -- I didn't want to get into any arguments," Stephenson said. "I was just playing ball and things happened in the fun of the game."

Stephenson has been built up by the local meeting as the best player in New York City. It may be too much for any youngster to handle. He is certainly and clearly a very talented player for any age. The next three to four years will give us a glimpse on how he handles the media pressure, something Mayo knows already too well.

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