O.J. Mayo deserves a couple of thank you cards.
Huge crowds of fans and coaches came to see Rivals.com's top prospect in the class of 2007 play for the Miami Tropics in 12th annual Houston Kingwood Classic last weekend. Mayo normally plays with the D-One Greyounds, but switched teams temporarily to play in the HKC.
Nobody benefited more from all the exposure than his new teammates. Especially junior center Freddy Asprilla (6-foot-9, 265 pounds) and junior point guard Javi Gonzalez (6-0, 170).
Asprilla, a native of Columbia that moved to the United States three months ago, provided a consistent scoring presence on the inside, averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds a game – key stats that fueled the Tropics' run to the semifinals.
It was the first time many coaches got a chance to see Asprilla, who didn't start playing basketball until two years ago. Arizona, Connecticut Pittsburgh, Florida, Florida State and Oregon State all inquired about him.
"I had at least 20 coaches call me about Freddy after the tournament," Miami Tropics coach Art Alvarez said. "He has tremendous upside. At the Boo Williams Invitational (three weeks ago in Hampton, Va.) he outplayed every big man he went up against.
"I think he will get even more attention once he loses a little weight. He's a little too heavy right now, but if he can get down to 245 pounds he would be unstoppable."
The HKC was the first major AAU tournament for Gonzalez, but his inexperience didn't show. He took turns playing the point with Mayo and proved very tough to guard, consistently attacking the basket and drawing fouls.
"Florida was impressed with Javi and he and Freddy are going to be two high major D-I players," Alvarez said. "They were both O.J.'s favorite players."
Gonzalez played with Louisville-signee Derrick Caracter at St. Patrick's High in Elizabeth, N.J., last season, before recently transferring to Krop High in Miami.