March 22, 2006

Two of Ohio's best may go where Huggins goes

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Bob Huggins is a coach without a college team, but he could end up with two of Ohio's top basketball players no matter where he lands.

O.J. Mayo, Ohio's two-time Associated Press Mr. Basketball, said Tuesday that he and Cincinnati North College Hill teammate Bill Walker - both juniors - may go wherever the former University of Cincinnati coach goes.

''That could be right,'' Mayo said of the rumor that he and Walker would go with Huggins as a package deal. ''That could be a possibility. At the same time, we don't want to go to a raw program.''

Mayo is a 6-foot-5 swingman and Walker is a 6-6 power forward for North College Hill, the defending Division III state champions in Ohio and ranked as one of the top teams in the nation by several publications.

NBA rules prevent players from making themselves available for the draft until they are at least a year out of high school.

Mayo averaged 28.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 5 steals during the regular season for the Trojans (24-1), who defend their title this weekend in Columbus. Walker averaged 22.4 points against a schedule that included teams such as national powerhouse Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, which gave the Trojans their only loss, and defending Ohio big-school state champion Canton McKinley.

''It could be a great thing to happen,'' Mayo said of going to play for Huggins. ''At the same time, we have to see where he ends up, what the school's fan base is like, see what the fans think about him and make sure everything is great.''

Huggins was forced out last August after 16 years as Cincinnati's coach. He accepted a $3 million buyout after a public struggle with new Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher, who disagreed with the way Huggins ran the Bearcats program.

He has denied that he has any kind of an agreement to have Mayo and Walker join him when he takes a college coaching job.

Speaking at a luncheon in Canton on Monday, Huggins said he hoped to return to college coaching.

Asked about Mayo and Walker, he said, ''They're as good as advertised.''

A message for Huggins was left Wednesday with his attorney.

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