When he finally announced it, live on national television Tuesday night, yes, it was surprising to hear DeAndre Ayton pick Arizona over Kansas and Kentucky, if only because most had long figured the nation's top-ranked prospect would eventually commit to KU, and because the afternoon buzz seemed to center on UK.
But in a general sense, there was nothing surprising about it.
It was just Sean Miller securing another five-star recruit.
And he's been doing that consistently for years.
"I made Arizona home," Ayton, who is from the Bahamas but now lives in Arizona, said on ESPN. "My mom and family can benefit from coming to my games. [Assistant] coach [Joe] Pasternack. Coach Miller. We really trust those guys and that program."
And it would be unwise to ever bet against those guys and that program on the recruiting trail because almost nobody has secured more commitments from five-star prospects in recent history.
Check this out ...
Commitments from five-star players in past seven years
Those are the totals, according to 247 Sports. And what they show is that while nobody has been close to Kentucky's John Calipari in terms of landing five-star recruits -- although, it's worth noting, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has basically matched UK recruit for recruit over the past four years -- nobody but Calipari has been better than Miller in recent history. Thus, you can make the case that Miller is the second-most effective recruiter in college basketball. In fact, I've made that case before.
Tuesday's announcement was simply a big reminder.
Absolutely, it is true that the Wildcats had an advantage here because Ayton attends high school in Arizona. But Calipari and Self have for years gone into far-away states and convinced elite prospects to leave home. (Malik Monk, from Arkansas, comes to mind.) Ayton was supposed to be the next to do exactly that. But he instead became the first No. 1 overall recruit Miller has ever landed.
It's a huge get, undeniably.
And now we get to see if Miller will ever get to actually coach the versatile forward.
That's the other part of this story, and nothing is guaranteed no matter what anybody insists. For starters, most traditional powers didn't even seriously recruit Ayton because, sources told CBS Sports, they either do not believe he'll really choose to play college basketball or they do not believe he'll ever be cleared academically to play college basketball. I talked to Ayton about this in July, down at the Nike Peach Jam, and he acknowledged as much -- although he noted, at the time, that he was taking summer online courses to get "on track" to meet minimum requirements for freshman eligibility. And, for what it's worth, Ayton said Tuesday that he definitely plans to play at least one season of college basketball.
As always, we'll see.
It's not that I think he's lying.
It's just ... we'll see.
If he doesn't play college basketball, that'll be too bad -- especially for an Arizona program that just watched its top recruit from the Class of 2016, Terrance Ferguson, sign a professional contract in Australia rather than enroll in Tucson. But if he does play college basketball, watch out. Because DeAndre Ayton is worthy of his reputation. He is ranked No. 1 because he is, in my opinion, after watching him many times, the best high school prospect in the country. And he's definitely the type of prospect who could, with the right pieces around him, lead Arizona to Sean Miller's first Final Four and, perhaps, even a national championship.