I use a puff piece in the L.A. Times on O.J. Mayo’s taking of summer classes and playing pick-up games to get ready for his first (and let’s face it, probably sole) year in a Trojan uniform at the Galen Center to once again stoke the hope that USC can manage to keep it semi-competitive with UCLA, and keep it respectable even though both Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt have departed (Young was ready; Pruitt most certainly was not.) Really, I’m attempting not to have any illusions about Mayo staying longer than one year at Southern Cal, but maybe if he doesn’t get the team deep into the tournament in the first go-round, he’ll stick around to make his name further, especially since UCLA has Kevin Love coming in and Darren Collison back.
All most Trojan fans are asking for is to bring the program up. Getting to the Sweet 16 was an unexpected bonus last season, especially because it came at the hands of wunderkind Kevin Durant and the usual crunch-time coaching incompetence of Texas’ Rick Barnes. If the Trojans can get back to the Sweet 16 with Mayo after losing Young and Pruitt, it’ll be great. I’ve written before that I’ve not soured on Mayo despite his back story and incidents — I have respect for him basically taking control of his recruiting process; basically recruiting schools instead of being swarmed by them. He probably isn’t the “punk” he’s been labeled as, at least not to that extent yet — and if he’s serious about winning a title at USC, hopefully he means that if it takes an extra year or two, he’ll do that.
I’m not counting on it, but it’s just a thought.