True Hoop’s Henry Abbot predicts that O.J. Mayo “will never play a second of NCAA Basketball.” If that’s the case, why is Kansas State paying Bob Huggins all that money? But seriously, Thayer Evans’ “Battle Rages for the Soles of a Young Star” in today’s New York Times is an eye-opening look at the full-court press applied by Nike and Reebok in their attempt to woo one of the nation’s top high school starlets.
Nike and Reebok continue to jostle for positioning with Mayo, Ohio’s two-time player of the year, who averaged 28.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals in leading North College Hill to a second straight state championship.
During the Kingwood tournament, Reebok had a representative at the event, said Sonny Vaccaro, the company’s senior director of grassroots basketball.
The Miami Tropics’ coach, Art Alvarez, said Nike had two or three people on hand, including Don Crenshaw, the company’s basketball marketing manager, to watch Mayo.
“I know Nike wants to actively pursue him and try to get him over to Nike,” Alvarez said. “You know how the shoe war situation is. We’ve been a Nike A.A.U. team for a long time. If somehow within all these parameters we can accommodate him to Nike, that would be great.”
Mayo said that when he joined the Tropics to play in the Kingwood Classic he was not aware that Nike sponsors the team.
“I really don’t worry about the shoe contract,” Mayo said. “I’d play in Pumas if that’s what the team wore, but this team wears Nike and I wanted to fit in.”
Vaccaro (above), who is credited with signing Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady to shoe deals, said he did not view Mayo’s playing for the Tropics as a breakthrough for Nike. He said he expected him to return to the Greyhounds.
“Everybody’s treating this like the seventh game of the N.B.A. playoffs,” Vaccaro said in a telephone interview. “It’s not.”
Vaccaro said he had a “very close” relationship with Mayo and indicated that he is more concerned about where Mayo would be playing in July, when Reebok and Nike are the hosts at competing basketball camps for the top prep basketball players.
“Sonny’s kind of a man in the back,” Mayo said. “He handles a lot of business for me that I don’t really know about, not just as a basketball player.”