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Mayo returns looking to prove his loyalty

When Todd Mayo jogged over to the scorer’s table following a Jamil Wilson foul that created an official’s timeout at the under-16 mark, hardly anyone noticed.

Coming out of the timeout, Mayo’s appearance on the Al McGuire Court for the first time in almost nine months came as a shock. Many thought Mayo would play at some point, but slipping him into the lineup so quietly and early in the game was an under-the-radar surprise to many.

There was no standing ovation. There was no grand entrance when he took the court roughly 20 minutes earlier for pregame warmups. Outside of one sign in the stands that read “Mayo X-mas!” no one seemed to focus in on Mayo’s first appearance in a Marquette uniform since the Sweet 16.

And that’s because it’s no longer just about Mayo. He isn’t just the brother of Dallas Maverick shooting guard O.J. Mayo. He’s not out of make himself above anyone on the team or take anything for granted, which he did in “rendering himself ineligible” for the first semester, in the words of Buzz Williams.

Todd Mayo is ready to prove his worth to Marquette. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Todd Mayo is ready to prove his worth to Marquette. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

It seems Mayo has quietly made himself part of the Marquette family again.

He scored just two points on two made free throws in Marquette’s 84-80 win against LSU Saturday afternoon, and tallied two steals in 12 minutes. He showed rust, missing all four of his field goal attempts (all 3-pointer) and even turned the ball over on his first possession of the season.

But Mayo’s performance today wasn’t about the statistics. That will come later in the year as Marquette’s offense continues to search for consistency, which today included an eight-minute stretch where it tallied just four points.

It’s about the person, not the player, Marquette is allowing back on the team.

“It definitely was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Period,” Mayo said after the game. “When I got sent home over the summer it hurt, but when that happened it really opened my eyes. But I just kept telling myself take it a day at a time and just work hard in the classrooms.”

That’s exactly what Mayo did. Head coach Buzz Williams heard from academic advisers that Mayo had built good relationships with teachers and that his grades were in order to become eligible after the first semester.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds for Mayo to get back in good graces.

Every morning during his suspension, Mayo woke up at 5 a.m. — similar to his Marquette teammate’s schedule — and perform a Boot Camp session, the same ones Williams put him through over the summer, at Hope High School. Mayo then attended classes and studied until 3 p.m., when he would go back to Hope and put up as many shots as he could before doing a second Boot Camp session. All by himself. He finished the evening with a second study hall session at 6 p.m.

Just as it looked on the court Saturday afternoon, when they had his back but didn’t make him the focal point of anything special, Mayo said his teammates took care of him but showed an example by staying on their academics, too.

“They knew what I was going through,” Mayo said. “I would be the same way if a teammate was in my same position. It would be hard to see them go through it. They were telling me to keep my head up, but at the same time they gotta do their job. They gotta go to school and they gotta get ready for a big game, and I had to do what I had to do.”

The rather shy sophomore shooting guard did not show much emotion during the game, but that was no different. The quiet Mayo has attempted for two years to slow everything down — the struggles with academics; basketball itself; life in general — and it took a toll on him on two occasions before the season began.

Williams made Mayo call his mother three days before he was set to play on the U.S.S. Yorktown, and let her know he would be academically ineligible for the team’s first nine games. That, and watching on a T.V. as his teammates took to the aircraft carrier struck him personally, and allowed him to let his guard down during such a pressure-filled situation.

“It was just hard. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I felt like…it’s hard to explain the feeling,” he said. “But at the same time, my back was against the wall, because if I didn’t do what I needed to do then I was never going to step on the court in D-1 basketball again.”

Mayo and Williams found out the shooting guard was academically eligible on Monday morning, which would have set him up to play in Marquette’s eventual 49-47 loss at Green Bay on Wednesday.

“The only way I’m going to deal with this, is in person. Because if I try to explain to you the NCAA rule book, you’re going to be confused on the phone. If I try to explain to you his degree plan over the phone, you’re going to be lost. So you fly here Wednesday, we’ll be in Green Bay and I’ll meet you Thursday morning.”

Mayo, Williams and Marquette’s academic advisers laid out everything “in black and white” for Todd’s mother to see on where her son was and where he was heading as an eligible student, leading to the decision that he would rejoin the team.

He didn’t cure everything for a Marquette team looking for answers on the offensive end. He’ll undoubtedly help in the effort as the team’s best outside shooter, but what Williams and his teammates said they really need is for Todd Mayo the person to show up every day.

Todd Mayo was humbled by the nine games he was forced to sit out due to academic ineligibility. (Screenshot: MUTV Sports)

Todd Mayo was humbled by the nine games he was forced to sit out due to academic ineligibility. (Screenshot: MUTV Sports)

“It brings joy to my heart, because coming into Marquette, I struggled academically,” senior Junior Cadougan said. “and I tell Todd all the time, you’ve just got to put your head into the books. Sometimes you want to watch TV or play video games.

“Work on your papers, just study. Be at study hall more hours than you think you need to be there. Get help from people. And he showed a sign of maturity that he could do that and now he’s eligible and that makes all of us happy that he could be part of the family again,” he added.

Mayo did show maturity during his suspension, and he is finally back as a loyal member of the Marquette family. It’s now up to him to prove to his teammates that he can maintain both. During his break, Mayo thought it appropriate to get the tattoo he had wanted for some time put on his left forearm.

The passage reads:

“He shares the same dreams and visions, stands by each other in the strongest winds with no fear. He is my brother. You can count on his friendship, strength and loyalty. He believes his actions speak for himself. He is my friend.”

Back with Marquette, Mayo hopes to prove to everyone he is that person.

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2 Comments on “Mayo returns looking to prove his loyalty”

  1. Tim
    December 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Great article Mark

  2. December 23, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    What a wonderful sign that recognized Todd with that simple message!
    Mayo x-mas! Says it all.

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