Timberwolves grab Mayo at No. 3 Print
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Thursday, 26 June 2008 16:05
NBA Headline News

 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The television cameras and newspaper reporters have been following O.J. Mayo since he was 14 years old.
He's experienced the gamut of coverage - from national adoration and Sports Illustrated dubbing him the next LeBron James to controversy when allegations surfaced that he took money and gifts from a sports agent while in high school and during his only season at USC.
Mayo has been through more than the average college freshman, which appealed to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who selected the dynamic guard with the third overall pick in Thursday night's NBA Draft.
``Maybe just a little bit, but you never know,'' Mayo said when asked if all the attention has prepared him for the pros. ``The NBA is a whole new world, a foreign world to me. I'm just happy to be a part of it. I just need to learn from the veterans on our team and our coaching staff and make sure I'm safe and make sure I'm focused.''
Listed at 6-foot-5, the combo guard averaged 20.7 points and was first-team All-Pac-10 in his lone season playing for the Trojans. After the season, a former friend said he took money from an agent while at school. Mayo has denied the allegations.
The Timberwolves discussed that topic and much more at a workout in Chicago last weekend.
``I felt great talking to everyone,'' Mayo said. ``The questions went fine. I was just happy to get an opportunity to sit in front of them and explain my side of the stories that maybe they didn't know. Everything went well.''
Assistant GM Fred Hoiberg said the Timberwolves were impressed by their interview with Mayo and love his competitiveness.
``He's a complete player, a complete person,'' Hoiberg told hundreds of fans gathered at a draft party at Target Center. ``It was just a really solid pick for us.''
Mayo will pair with the 6-4 Randy Foye in a versatile backcourt that is a little on the short side. Mayo also bears some resemblance to Rashad McCants. All three players are scoring guards who are shorter than the prototypical 6-foot-6 shooting guard.
``I think those two will play very well together,'' Hoiberg said of Mayo and Foye, who will likely serve as the primary ballhandler when he is in the game.
But Mayo says he believes he can play point guard for the Timberwolves if they need him there.
``Whatever the team needs,'' Mayo said. ``I'm a winner. I carry myself with a winning mentality. Whatever's best for the team is what I'll provide.''
He is coming to a team that has missed the playoffs three years in a row and is beginning Year 2 of a rebuilding plan in the post-Kevin Garnett era.
After a miserable 4-29 start to the season, the young Timberwolves showed some improvement down the stretch and finished 22-60. The better second half was in part because Foye, a second-year guard, was healthy and developing into a playmaking perimeter presence.
Mayo, the highest Trojans player ever selected, wowed the Timberwolves at his workout.
On a team that lacked consistent outside shooters, Mayo made 47 of the first 50 shots he took in the workout, Hoiberg said. That precision should be a nice compliment to big man Al Jefferson, who blossomed into a star as the cornerstone of the 7-for-1 trade that sent Garnett to Boston.
``We thought there was a realistic chance Miami would take him at No. 2,'' Hoiberg said of the Heat, who chose Kansas State forward Michael Beasley. ``We think that he'll come in and be able to help us out right away.''
Mayo has been on the national radar since he was a seventh grader starring on his high school team in Kentucky.
Thanks to a new rule by the NBA that bars high school players from jumping straight to the pros, Mayo's NBA aspirations had to wait for a season spent at USC playing for Tim Floyd, who also coached Hoiberg in college at Iowa State and in the NBA with the Bulls.
Hoiberg used that connection in the decision-making process.
``Tim Floyd absolutely raves about this kid,'' Hoiberg said.
There were some questions about whether Mayo, who has been a household name for so long and starred in college in glitzy Southern California, would play in a smaller market like Minnesota. Mayo has never been here, but said he can't wait to get going.
``I just wanted to hear my name called and be a part of the NBA,'' Mayo said. ``It doesn't matter if it was a big-market organization, a small market or a medium market. It really doesn't matter. I just want to be a part of the NBA.''
 

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