When the NBA draft takes place Thursday night, projected top picks Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo will realize life-long dreams.
But Mayo's moment in the spotlight will not be all glorious. It will be accompanied by talk of a multijurisdictional investigation into allegations that he was funneled money by a sports agent even before he starred for one season at Southern California.
It's the kind of story the NBA Player's Association has worked to help young stars avoid for the past 14 years during its Top 100 Camp - where off-the-court learning goes hand-in-hand with on court skills. Parents are encouraged to become educated, too.
Beasley and Mayo are alumni of the camp.
Though decision-making is emphasized at the camp and former NBA players who made bad choices share their stories, Kenny Boynton of Plantation, Fla., said it already appears to be too late for some of his fellow high school stars who seem to already believe that their future is lined with gold.
``It's definitely a separation,'' said the 6-foot-3 guard, one of the nation's top recruits who added that he has learned a lot from the classes designed to teach players to recognize how people attempt to ingratiate themselves to them. ``The guys that are paying attention, they're taking notes and trying to remember the stuff. The dudes that are not paying attention, they're talking and texting and stuff. You could hand-pick the few that are paying attention.''
Camp director Tim McCormick remembers having Mayo and Beasley in camp a few years ago, and said the evidence now suggests that Mayo ``wasn't ready to hear what we were talking about.''
Either that, or he liked what he was hearing from other people better.
``I never saw the house where he grew up,'' McCormick said of the Huntington, W.Va. native, already one of the nation's top recruits when he came to the camp in the summer of 2005.
``I don't know the type of family support that he received. I do know that we have a parent program and that his parents were not here,'' McCormick said at the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena, where the weeklong camp has been held for the past three years.
The NBPA pays players' expenses except the rare instances where that violates state high school rules. All parents and guardians pay for their own transportation and lodging. AAU coaches and agents are not allowed to attend the camp.
Mayo arrived at the camp on his own, NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman said. He was joined by his ``guardian'' Rodney Guillory, now at the center of the investigation into the alleged payments.
In a time when one elite prep star can save a college coach's job or elevate a program to deep-in-the-NCAA-tournament status, Mayo's alleged missteps highlight the need for families to be even more involved in their child's decisions.
``Many of their family members feel like they hit the lottery when their son was born to them,'' McCormick said. ``In many ways, they would be better off if they broke their leg and never played again because of the fact that they would focus on education and future.''
In reality, McCormick said, only seven or eight of the 100 players will get to the NBA.
Aaric Murray hopes to be one of them. A 6-10 center from Philadelphia, Murray took to the game last year when he was sent to a residential school for court-adjudicated juveniles.
Before then, he said, ``the devil was always winning.''
And now?
``I feel better being around coaches and players and positive attitudes instead of sitting around guns and drugs and people that don't want to go to school,'' said Murray, a rising senior at Glen Mills School near Philadelphia. ``Basketball can open a lot of doors for me.''
The classes and skits acted out at the NBPA camp illustrated the impact that one bad decision can make, Murray said, and were valuable ``so you don't make a mistake,'' he said.
Sam Robinson agrees. He's attended the parents portion of the camp twice. Nican, his oldest son, now plays at California; Zenan is being recruited by Stanford, Penn and others.
Having been active in a camp run by former Golden State Warriors star Tim Hardaway in Oakland, Calif., for several years, Sam Robinson has seen how much his own children benefit from having their parents involved, and how others with less engagement are vulnerable.
Single moms, he said, sometimes make themselves easy targets to ``the parasites,'' self-serving coaches and advisors trying to work their way into a player's inner circle.
``A lot of the moms don't really know too much about the game, or the sport, and they think, `Wow. Here's a positive male role model for my kid,' and they hand them over,'' he said. ``Sometimes, if you show a little bit of interest, they say, `Take him. He's yours.'''
Xavier Henry has seen those kids, too, and feels fortunate to have his family engaged in his decisions. The 6-6 swingman from Oklahoma City attended the camp for the second time this season, even though a cracked bone in his ankle prevented him from playing hard.
``I don't listen to anybody else other than my family,'' he said. ``Just my immediate family, too, not branching out to all my cousins that I supposedly have.''
He chuckled at the ridiculousness, but has seen others who weren't as savvy.
``You can tell when kids have an entourage or just somebody that's the main man or something like that,'' he said. ``They're trying to get something out of them.''
Looking out over a gymnasium filled with players, some very early in their development and others seemingly ready to take the next step, Purvis Short summarized the difficulty.
``We have them for five days,'' the former NBA star who is now the director of player programs for the camp said. ``Other people have them for the rest of the year.''

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