If losing Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder wasn’t daunting enough, the latest challenge facing Marquette is sure to dash the school’s Big East title hopes—slim as they were—before the season even begins.
On the night O.J. Mayo celebrated his birthday by erupting for 32 points in a Dallas Mavericks win, his younger brother Todd was mourning a direful NCAA ruling. Mayo, who would have been charged with filling part of the massive void left behind by the highest-scoring duo in the Big East last season, is instead leaving behind a hole of his own.
The NCAA ruled the Golden Eagles guard academically ineligible on Monday, which means the program’s top-returning 3-point threat will have to watch from afar as his team, mired in rebuilding mode, scrambles to plug another hole without sufficient resources.
Mayo had a rocky freshman year at Marquette, between his vanishing act during Big East play and his developed disconnect with Buzz Williams. Their relationship became so strained that, at one point, the head coach asked Mayo to reconsider whether he wanted to be a part of the team.
From the get-go, Mayo appeared disinclined to mesh with Marquette’s team-oriented system. Whether it was the impression of an entitled attitude stemming from his brother’s fame or the disengagement from the team that was obvious in conference play, Mayo and his teammates never clicked.
But last month, the 21-year-old sophomore vowed to set straight his poor attitude and rectify the distractions he was creating behind the scenes. A recommitted Mayo began rebuilding his relationship with Williams and working to become a better leader for his team. He did this not for P.R. points or to make headlines, but rather out of a renewed dedication to Marquette basketball.
Mayo seemed destined for one of those storybook endings—a perceived me-first malcontent who, over time and through maturation, evolves into the team’s vocal leader. And he was on the right track until the NCAA got word of his struggles in the classroom and tossed him off the rails. Mayo’s valiant efforts, all for naught.