Russo: Extra Mayo In Milwaukee

This piece was written by Behind the Buck Pass contributor, Henry Russo. Henry is a senior at Marquette University and can be found on Twitter @HankRusso.

When the NCAA and NBA basketball seasons tip off this fall, the BMO Harris Bradley Center will be the home court for brothers OJ and Todd Mayo.

OJ, 25, signed with the Bucks this offseason and is the much more well-known of the two.  He was a highly-touted player throughout his well traveled, if not controversial, high school and college careers.

Todd, on the other hand, was a less heralded recruit who decided to attend Marquette over the likes of Baylor and West Virginia. Although their career trajectories are different, the Mayo brothers have a similar skill set. OJ and Todd are both undersized shooting guards with sneaky athleticism who excel on the offensive end and play solid defense. They both have experienced success on the court, but much of the attention they receive comes from their actions off of it. This upcoming season presents tremendous opportunities for both players.

Todd Mayo’s first season in Milwaukee was solid, as he provided scoring off the bench for a strong Marquette team. Even though Todd performed well on the court, he found himself in trouble off of it; he was suspended for the second half of a conference game against West Virginia. The suspension seemed fairly harmless, as nearly half the team was reprimanded in an incident that was said to involve underage drinking.

Once Marquette’s season ended in the Sweet Sixteen, there were high hopes Todd would fill the hole left by leading scorer and second-round pick Darius Johnson-Odom. However, this would not be the case as Todd again ran into trouble – this time for for breaking team rules. As a result, he was sent home for part of the summer.

Then, in the fall of 2012, Todd once again found himself on the outside looking in when he was declared academically ineligible and could not practice or play with the team for the fall semester. Shortly after the suspension was announced there were rumors Mayo would transfer, but he opted to stay in Milwaukee. When Mayo finally returned to the team in the spring, he struggled. The Big East champion Eagles could have used his outside shooting, but when given chances his shot selection was erratic. After an impressive NCAA Tournament run, Marquette eventually fell in the Elite Eight to Syracuse, as the team could not shoot its way out of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. Todd finished 0-4 from three in the game and saw his season averages drop in nearly every category.

The Golden Eagles faithful may not have the same expectations for Mayo as his junior year approaches, but opportunities for him to shine will certainly exist. Marquette enters the new-look Big East Conference having lost its starting backcourt – Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue – to graduation and an ill-advised NBA draft entry.

While Mayo will have an opportunity to play a significant role on what’s shaping up to be another strong Marquette team, coach Buzz Williams has brought in three four-star recruits also looking to take advantage of the vacancies in the backcourt. Additionally, Mayo recently underwent knee surgery, but reports are that he will be ready for the season. While Todd faces these challenges, he will also have a front row seat as his brother OJ begins his tenure with the Bucks.

As with most of Milwaukee’s free agent acquisitions, there was not much fanfare when OJ signed his three-year, $24 million deal with the team. When people hear the name “OJ Mayo,” they are more likely to think about his high-profile prep career.

As a seventh-grader in Ashland, Kentucky, Mayo started on the high school varsity basketball team. Prior to his freshman year, he moved on to Cincinnati where he played alongside friend and future NBA player Bill Walker. For his senior season, OJ went back to his native West Virginia to team up with another future NBA player, Patrick Patterson, at Huntington Prep.

Though his lone season at Huntington was nothing short of dominant, Mayo found himself suspended for allegedly pushing a referee during a game, although the ref may have embellished the contact. Later that year Mayo was charged with marijuana possession, but the charges were eventually dropped. Despite the off-court distractions, Mayo led Huntington to its third consecutive state title with a triple-double in the title game.

Unable to directly enter the NBA draft due to the league’s new eligibility rules, OJ – who scored an impressive 29 on his ACT – decided to attend University of Southern California. USC basketball was not exactly a powerhouse, but OJ led the team in scoring at 20.7 points per game. His lone season as a Trojan ended with a first round exit from the NCAA tournament.  However, in 2010 the NCAA declared that Mayo had received improper benefits during his collegiate career, and the Trojans were forced to vacate all wins from the 2007-2008 season. Mayo declared for the NBA draft shortly after the season ended.

Mayo was selected third overall in the 2008 NBA draft, and after a draft day trade he found himself playing for the Memphis Grizzlies. Mayo’s performance during his first two years in the league was strong, as he averaged 18.5 points as a rookie and 17.5 in his second season. He was even the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award, behind future MVP Derrick Rose.

OJ was once again the starting shooting guard at the start of his third season with Memphis in 2010. His role soon diminished after being taken out of the starting lineup for being late to a team shoot around. The trouble did not end there, as OJ got in a fight over a card game gambling debt with Tony Allen while on a team flight. Later in the season, Mayo found himself in trouble with the league for using the banned substance dehydroepiandrosterone. Though Mayo claimed the substance came from an energy drink he bought from a gas station, he still had to serve a 10-game suspension.

During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Mayo came off the bench but was not happy in this role. His playing time was cut by nearly twelve minutes per game and, in turn, his scoring took a hit. The Grizzlies opted not to re-sign him, and Mayo became an unrestricted free agent.

OJ signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2012 on a one-year deal and quickly found himself back in a starting lineup. With Mavs star power forward Dirk Nowitzki injured, Mayo became the primary scoring option. OJ did well in this role for the middle-of-the-pack Mavericks. However, once Nowitzki returned, the two struggled to mesh due to Dirk’s versatile outside/inside game. The Mavs did not qualify for the playoffs and OJ declined his player option making him a free agent again.

On paper, Milwaukee appears to be a place where OJ can thrive. The high-usage, inefficient backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is gone, opening the door for Mayo and his three-year, $24 million contract. Overall, the Bucks’ roster is extremely young and Mayo will be sharing the backcourt with third-year guard Brandon Knight.

Not only will the Bucks expect Mayo to be the main perimeter threat, they will most likely rely on Mayo as the go-to scoring option. Milwaukee’s talented, but young, frontcourt of Larry Sanders and John Henson are known more for their defensive prowess than their offensive skills. Their talents should complement Mayo, who struggled playing with Dirk due to both players’ perimeter-oriented playing styles. The last time Mayo was relied on so heavily was in his college days at USC.

Though the Bucks more than likely will end the season near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, their young nucleus is promising. Next year’s draft is billed as the best since 2003, and if the Bucks can find themselves at the top of the lottery they could add enough talent to bring them into yearly contention. Mayo is just 25 years old and if he plays as expected out of a third overall pick they may have found a solid contributor for years to come if he stays out of trouble. However, at this point in his career, that is a big “if.”

The Mayo brothers have seen their fair share of controversy. Now both are in Milwaukee, a location which doesn’t exactly provide the bright lights of a big market. Will being in the same city help or hurt their playing careers?

Neither brother has said much publicly about being in the same city. The opportunities both possess are eerily similar, and both could play a big role in their team’s future success. Their individual, troubled histories could be a terrible mixture, creating problems for both the Bucks and Golden Eagles. However, brotherly love could provide the focus each Mayo needs to thrive on and off the court. Only time will tell if a little extra Mayo in Milwaukee will be what Milwaukee needs for a successful basketball season

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