After one college season in which he achieved nearly everything except a satisfactory conclusion for his team, O.J. Mayo is moving on.
The USC freshman guard announced Wednesday that he would hire an agent and declare for the NBA draft, in which he is expected to become a lottery pick. He is projected as the No. 3 overall selection by nbadraft.net.
Mayo averaged a team-leading 20.7 points, was a first-team All-Pacific 10 Conference selection and established Trojans freshman records with 684 points and 88 three-point baskets.
He said in a statement he would finish the semester at USC and then “focus on preparing for the NBA draft.”
The 6-foot-5 Mayo had long spoke of leading USC to its first national title, and the Trojans seemed poised for a deep run in the NCAA tournament after finishing tied with Washington State for third place in the Pac-10.
But the sixth-seeded Trojans lost to 11th-seeded Kansas State, 80-67, in a Midwest Regional first-round game in Omaha. Mayo scored 20 points on six-for-16 shooting in his final college game.
“If everyone wants to be fair to the kid, he did everything that he could do,” former sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro said. “The hard part about it was the aspirations, the ‘I want to lead my team to a championship.’ He might have been too enthusiastic, because it was something that was almost impossible to do.”
Vaccaro noted that Mayo was not the only star freshman whose team suffered an early exit in the NCAA tournament. Eric Gordon and Indiana lost to Arkansas in the first round, and Michael Beasley and Kansas State lost to Wisconsin in the second round after getting past the Trojans.
“Kevin Love’s legacy is cemented even though he went one year because he went to the Final Four,” Vaccaro said of the UCLA standout who is also expected to declare for the NBA draft. “O.J.'s legacy, because there wasn’t a dynamic ending, it won’t resonate as much. But the people in Southern Cal are going to be proud to say he was a Trojan.”
Mayo, whose single-season point total trailed only the 789 points Harold Miner scored for the Trojans during the 1991-92 season, also led the Trojans with 109 assists and 51 steals. Though he was noncommittal about his future after USC’s final game, he was widely expected to become the first Trojan to turn professional after only one season.
“This comes as no surprise,” Coach Tim Floyd said in a statement. “We are appreciative of everything O.J. did for all of us the year he was with us. We wish him well. I have no doubt that he will be a great professional.”
Mayo is scheduled to meet with the media Tuesday at the Galen Center to further discuss his decision.
“Attending USC has been such a great experience for me and has really helped prepare me for my next step in life,” Mayo said in a statement.
Two other Trojans are facing decisions about their futures.
Sophomore forward Taj Gibson appears to be weighing his options after announcing at the team banquet March 24 that he would return for his junior season. A source close to Davon Jefferson recently said the freshman forward would return next season.