It starts with an introduction, a lunch, a dinner, a pair of shoes, whatever. Nobody tries to buy a prospect from the start. They just try to get close to a prospect, hang with a prospect and develop a friendship with a prospect over time. It happens in a span of months or years, and the prospect might ultimately look at the runner as a friend, which is how Mayo happens to view Guillory, as a friend, this despite the fact that Guillory is 43 and Mayo is 20.
Guillory has had a close relationship with Mayo for years, by the way.
That means when Guillory was 41, Mayo was 18.
When Guillory was 39, Mayo was 16.
And how does a 39-year-old get close to a 16-year-old?
How did that even happen?
Answer: It happened because nobody was around to stop it from happening.
"You bring up a good point," former UCLA star Kevin Love said. "I don't want to talk about O.J.'s family, but he did not have the most steady background. From my perspective, just having a family there and people to talk to on a daily basis and support me like my family did, it builds a steady background and you don't have to have people like Rodney Guillory around. But it was tough for O.J. He doesn't come from such a stable place."
Karen Love, Kevin's mother, has a nice story that fits here.
She was traveling with her family to the McDonald's All-American Game in Louisville two years ago when Kevin's West team was scheduled to play O.J.'s East team at Freedom Hall. The Love family had a connection in Cincinnati. So they got off one plane and headed for another, and O.J., who was also traveling, spotted Kevin when he boarded a Tram to take him to the proper gate.
"O.J. was like, 'Kevin! Kevin! Hey!' " Karen Love recalled. "And then O.J. saw Stan, my husband, walk on and then he saw me walk on and then he saw Emily, our daughter, walk on and then he saw Collin, our son, walk on and he looked around and told Kevin, 'Wow, you're with your whole family. That's cool.'
"And it was just really sad. You could see the sadness in his eyes because he didn't have his family and he was all alone."
Those who know Mayo's background understand this is a typical story.
He was identified as a basketball prodigy by the age of 13 and was basically on his own with little parental guidance throughout high school. Mayo was also poor, and that's the perfect scenario for an agenda-driven man like Guillory. A future NBA player with no family and no money can be manipulated and compromised much more easily than somebody with a solid family and big bank account, which is why Kevin Love laughed when I asked if people like Guillory had tried to get close to him.
"I come from Lake Oswego," Love said with a smile. "We have a little bit of money there."
And that's forever going to be the problem as the NCAA tries to prevent the next Mayo/Guillory story from developing, that not every elite prospect comes from a wealthy, two-parent family like Love. Too often, the father is non-existent, the mother is preoccupied and a teenager is left to fend for himself in a world where everybody is trying to develop a relationship that will produce a large payday down the road.
The NCAA can't stop that from happening.
Only strong, committed, protective parents can stop it.
Love had them. Mayo did not.
Which is why those two have taken opposites paths to this point.
"I think the only difference between Kevin and O.J.," Karen Love said, "is that we were fortunate enough to be around Kevin all the time."