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MAYO: WE CAN WIN TITLE RECRUIT SETS LOFTY GOAL FOR TROJANS.

Byline: MATTHEW KREDEL Staff Writer

O.J. Mayo isn't shying away from his hype as the savior of USC basketball.

``I think we can win the national title and bring it home,'' Mayo said of next season, likely to be his only year with the Trojans before becoming a top pick in the NBA draft.

A day after USC opened Galen Center with a disappointing loss, the player expected to make the team live up to its new arena arrived on campus Friday -- and set an extraordinary goal for a team that hasn't even made the NCAA Tournament in fiveyears.

In order to make it happen, Mayo said he will try to convince the team's top juniors, Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt, to return for their senior seasons.

``I hope so,'' Mayo said of Young and Pruitt returning. ``They give us the best chance of winning. If they have to go support their family and stuff, I'll totally understand. But it would be nice if they stay.''

There's no doubt Mayo is the sort of impact player that can carry a team to the top in one year the way Carmelo Anthony did for Syracuse.

The top-rated recruit by Scout.com, Mayo averaged 28.6 points for North College Hill in Ohio last season before transferring to Huntington High in West Virginia. The 6-foot-5 point guard has not only the ability to score at will, but also to set up teammates.

``I'm an amazing, amazing competitor,'' Mayo said. ``I don't feel we need any superstars. As long as can get players who can play roles like the Detroit Pistons team -- defense, rebounding and blocked shots -- that gives the team the best chance to win in my eyes.''

Though USC coach Tim Floyd said Wednesday that he planned on his star recruit only being at the school one year, Mayo indicated that two years is not out of the question.

``I just want to win,'' Mayo said. ``So if we come really, really close next year, maybe a player or two away, and go out that summer and grab the pieces we're missing, then of course I'll come back.''

Mayo surprised USC coaches when he initiated contact with them earlier this year. The Trojans are used to getting five-star recruits in football, but not basketball.

When he first brought up the possibility of playing in Los Angeles, Mayo said his adviser Rodney Guillory, who is a promoter based in the city, pointed to UCLA.

``I said, `Nah, USC,''' Mayo said. ``UCLA has won championships and has great history. History has to start somewhere.

``I think it's time for this program to turn around. They've won national championships in everything except for basketball. I'd like to be the first one to be a part of that.''

Mayo once said he hoped to bring along friends to play at whatever college he attended. He now says that's unlikely to happen.

``As far as my AAU programs and past high school programs, it's just me, '' Mayo said. ``I don't expect anyone else.''

Mayo's best friend and former North College Hill teammate Bill Walker decided to go to Kansas State and enroll for this spring semester, meaning he likely would go pro and not be there for Mayo to join next year.

``I was considering K-State at one point, but talked to (Walker) and he said he was working his tail off to maybe go (to the NBA) next year, so that's when I came here,'' Mayo said.

Davon Jefferson, a USC commit from Lynwood High, became friends with Mayo at summer camps over the past two years. Mayo said he waited for Jefferson to sign with USC on Tuesday before signing his letter of intent Wednesday.

Mayo is at USC for an official visit. He plans to attend the basketball game against St. Mary's at Galen Center today, then head to the football game against Cal.

``It's the city of L.A.,'' Mayo said. ``It's the city of fun, so we're going to have fun.''

matthew.kredell@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 18, 2006
Words:683
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