(if you’re a shady, pseudo-agent representing one of the most talented teenagers in the land, Mr. Floyd won’t hesistate to grant you an audience)

Fascinating stuff from the New York Times’ Lee Jenkins today on the unlikely chain of events that led to O.J. Mayo selecting USC as his probable one-and-done stopover on the way to the NBA.

The mysterious man got right to the point. œHow would you like to have the best player in the country? he asked.

Tim Floyd tried not to roll his eyes.

œHave you heard of O. J. Mayo? the man asked.

Of course Floyd had heard of him. Everyone in basketball had heard of him. Mayo was first mentioned in Sports Illustrated when he was in the seventh grade. He was considered a future lottery pick by the time he entered high school. He once talked trash to Michael Jordan during a pickup game at Jordan™s camp.

Mayo was entering his senior season as a point guard at Huntington High School in Huntington, W.Va., but Floyd said he did not bother to call him. He did not even send him a U.S.C. brochure.

What was the point? Major universities had been courting Mayo for four years. Floyd had been at U.S.C. for fewer than 18 months. Besides, Floyd had only recruited two top-100 players in his life. He had no business going after Mayo, the No. 1 player in the country, especially being from a football college that was 3,000 miles away.

œO. J. wanted me to come here today, the man told Floyd. œHe wanted me to figure out who you are.

Floyd was desperate enough to play along. His starting point guard, Ryan Francis, had been murdered two months earlier. The backup, Gabe Pruitt, was in academic trouble. The third-stringer, a walk-on, was leaving college.

œWhy aren™t you at Arizona or Connecticut? Floyd recalled asking.

The man explained that Mayo wanted to market himself before going to the N.B.A., and that Los Angeles would give him the best possible platform.

œThen why aren™t you at U.C.L.A.? Floyd asked.

The man shook his head. U.C.L.A. had already won 11 national championships. It had already produced many N.B.A. stars. Mayo wanted to be a pioneer for a new era.

œLet me call him, Floyd said.

The man shook his head again. œO. J. doesn™t give out his cell, he said. œHe™ll call you.

Either Jenkins was pressed for space or we should give Floyd credit for a lack of pretense — there’s no mention of the former Iowa State coach asking about Mayo’s academic credentials, what he’d like to major in, etc. nor are we left with any impression that Floyd is in any way conflicted over Mayo playing his own role in recruiting players to USC.