Most of USC’s current players were never teammates of O.J. Mayo, the former Trojans guard at the center of allegations that have resulted in the school’s imposing sanctions on its basketball program.
Junior guard Marcus Simmons is an exception. He wasn’t only a teammate, he was Mayo’s roommate -- and he says he never saw any evidence that his friend was accepting money, gifts or special favors that would be in violation of NCAA rules.
“I didn’t notice anything,” Simmons said. “No change of clothes or anything.”
In a statement announcing the self-imposed sanctions, USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett attributed the move to “Mayo’s involvement with Rodney Guillory.”
Guillory, who USC says was acting as a “booster,” was accused by a former associate of funneling part of more than $200,000 given to him by a Northern California Sports Management agency to Mayo in cash, clothes and a television.
Mayo played one season at USC, in 2007-08, and is in his second season with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. The allegations that Mayo accepted the gifts from Guillory were denied this week by the player’s agent, LaPoe Smith.
Simmons said, “There was a TV, but no clothes or cash. I’ve never seen . . . clothes or cash.”
He also said the TV Mayo had did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s disappointing,” Simmons said of the sanctions, which include a ban on playing in the postseason, including the Pacific 10 Conference tournament, this season.
Simmons, a junior, is struggling physically; he’s been hampered all season by a joint sprain in his left shoulder. This after the defensive specialist committed to making 1,000 jump shots a day during the off-season to become a better scorer.
Pick up a West Coast edition of almost any preseason college basketball magazine and you’ll probably find a California Golden Bear smiling back at you.
The Bears, USC’s opponent tonight at Haas Pavilion, were the favorites to win the Pac-10 based on the firepower they have in their backcourt.
USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said Cal’s Jerome Randle (19 points per game), Patrick Christopher (16.1) and Theo Robertson (14.3) form arguably the top perimeter unit on the West Coast.
“They have talent and shot-making ability, range,” O’Neill said. “They’re definitely great one-on-one players.”
The trio accounts for 62% of Cal’s 80-points-a-game scoring average.
With the Bears coming off a one-point overtime loss to UCLA on Thursday, O’Neill expects a maximum effort from them.
As for his own team, he said the Trojans must play with more energy in the first eight to 10 minutes. That’s not what happened during the Stanford loss on Thursday -- “The first time all year,” O’Neill said, “I thought we had a total lack of effort in the first half.”
Trojans guard Donte Smith sprained his left ankle against Stanford and his availability tonight is in question, team spokesman David Tuttle said.