GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -O.J. Mayo can already see the bright side if he gets drafted by the New York Knicks: New coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo game should give the big guard plenty of action.
Might take the sting out of falling to sixth in the draft and joining one of the NBA's most woeful franchises.
Not that Mayo's ride has been the smoothest lately, either. In the past month, he's been dogged by multiple reports that he had cash and gifts funneled his way by an agent, in violation of NCAA regulations. The 20-year-old has denied receiving any improper benefits.
Subsequent reports have said that California authorities are investigating whether an associate of Mayo's used a charity's credit card to purchase the benefits.
On Thursday, still beaded with sweat after working out privately for Knicks officials at their training center, the 6-foot-5 guard shrugged off the idea that he might be thrown off his game by the allegations.
``Not at all,'' Mayo said. ``Like I said, it's a lifelong dream to play in the NBA.''
Mayo, who is leaving Southern California after his freshman year, is among the top prospects in the June 26 draft, probably just after guard Derrick Rose of Memphis and forward Michael Beasley of Kansas State. Any team seeking a versatile guard who can score inside and on the perimeter is likely to give Mayo a look.
Chicago has the first pick, followed by Miami, Minnesota, Seattle and Memphis ahead of the Knicks.
New president Donnie Walsh and D'Antoni will be making the organization's highest pick since Kenny Walker was drafted fifth in 1986. New York would have chosen second in 2006 but had to hand over that pick - as well as their first in 2005 - to Chicago in exchange for center Eddy Curry.
Getting to pick this early is almost a novelty for the Knicks. Using it wisely would go a long way to repair relations after the team repelled fans and others with a seventh straight losing season amid unending drama surrounding coach Isiah Thomas, who was fired in April.
One of the league's top offensive minds, D'Antoni favors an entertaining, high-scoring, up-tempo style. Mayo has taken notice, especially after working out with Knicks swingman Quentin Richardson, who tied for the NBA lead with 226 3-pointers while playing with the Suns for D'Antoni in 2004-05.
``I've been working out with Q-Rich, too,'' Mayo said, beaming. ``So definitely if you get a chance to play for D'Antoni, you'll get a chance to put up some shots.''
Mayo, from Huntington, W.Va., where D'Antoni played college ball at Marshall, averaged 20.7 points (on 16.2 shots), and made 41 percent of his 3-pointers.
Events would have to play out just right for Mayo to wind up in New York. Miami could take Mayo if Rose goes to Chicago, because the Heat need a guard. So do the SuperSonics, who pick fourth. However, Mayo's talented enough and the draft is thin enough on projectable big men that the Timberwolves could take him and hope to address their pivot needs elsewhere.
So if Mayo slides to sixth, he'd have an amenable offense, a coach with whom he shares some West Virginia connections and, of course, the eternal appeal of playing in basketball-mad New York.
``Me and Mr. Rose will figure out what we need to do,'' Mayo said. ``It's the Big Apple, it's the Mecca.''
Mayo was referring to his new agent, Leon Rose. Mayo and Calvin Andrews of Bill Duffy Associates parted ways last month after the allegations of improper benefits first surfaced in an ESPN report.
Former Mayo associate Louis Johnson told ESPN that Mayo associate Rodney Guillory received money from the agency BDA Sports and funneled cash and gifts to Mayo.
The allegations are being investigated by the NCAA, Pacific-10 Conference and Southern California.
``I'm kind of upset,'' Mayo said. ``I think at the end of the day when the stuff clears, everything will be fine.''
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