AFTER PLAYING highschool basketball for six years (he started in seventh grade) at three schoolsin three states, O.J. Mayo graduated from his hometown Huntington (W.Va.) Highlast Saturday. Next week? He heads to L.A. to take summer classes and begin hiscollege career at USC. The most renowned high school player since LeBron James,Mayo has won three straight state basketball titles: two in Ohio atCincinnati's North College Hill and one in West Virginia this year, when the6'5" point guard averaged 28.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists. Hesurprised the college basketball world, including future coach Tim Floyd, whenhe signed with USC—which hadn't bothered to recruit him, believing he was outof its league.
On why he choseUSC
I like Coach Floyd. He's overachieved. He took the Bulls job when no one wantedit. The Hornets went to New Orleans, he took that job and still did well. Iwanted to play for a guy with the hunger and desire to be successful, knowinghe's going to push me. At the same time, it's L.A.—it's great marketing. I'llget my face on the West Coast.
On his goals atUSC
To win a national championship, plain and simple. Nothing else, no Pac 10first-team, no player of the year—if it happens to come, it comes, but I wantto win a national championship. The summer will be important for us to gel.We'll get a chance to play a lot in open gym.
On what he'llstudy at USC
Business management, but I also want to do real estate investment. In myhometown I want to fix up the old houses and put in a pool and a lot of stufffor the community. I want to let people know that there are opportunities, thatyou can make your own playbook. Work at it, and anything can happen.
On the origin ofhis name
My grandfather is named Ovinton, and I was named after him. Then, my mom[Alisha] just chose J'Anthony as my middle name.
On deciding toreturn to Huntington for his senior season
I had the idea that I was going to head west for college, so I wanted to bearound my family and my friends and my mom for my last year. I know I'll neverlive at home again. I wanted to get some home love and eat my mom'scooking.
On being a publicfigure
This is what it's been since childhood. You grow into it. It's been this wayfor five, six, seven years. Now I guess you can call it my life. People havebeen following me since I was in seventh grade. I've never had the chance toreally be a kid.
On being suspendedafter bumping an official in January
You get to see who's there for O.J. and not just there for the basketballplayer. You see who is your true friend. You do one negative thing, it goesworldwide. You look at that and say, I want to do so many good things thatpeople forget the negative things.
On the NBA playerhe emulates
Kobe Bryant—as far as his focus and determination.
On a movie idol
I like Bruce Lee movies. You see the focus in what he does. He perfects everykick, every punch, every nunchuck. Whatever he's doing, he just perfects it. Wetry to perfect everything we do in basketball.
On his approach tobasketball
Very businesslike. I don't want people to think that there's an arrogance to meor that I think I'm better [than they are]. This is what I love to do. This ismy way out to help my mom and my family and to live the life that I want tolive.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
JEFF GENTNER/AP (MAYO ACTION)