Arizona gets DeAndre Ayton, top recruit and possible top NBA pick: Things to know
There is still some question as to whether Ayton will actually play in college
DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 ranked basketball recruit in the class of 2017 , verbally committed to Arizona on Tuesday night.
Ayton, who attends Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, made his pledge to Sean Miller's program on ESPN's SportsCenter. In doing so, Ayton becomes the first top-ranked recruit of Sean Miller's career -- and the first No. 1 recruit to ever pick Arizona. Ayton's commitment to Zona will almost definitely ensure Miller, who reminded us yet again that he is an elite recruiter, winds up with a top-five class in 2017. U of A was No. 38 heading into the day on 247's composite, but now finds itself up to No. 9.
Here are five things to know:
1. Is college really in Ayton's future?
Ayton is a 7-foot Bahamian big man that has No.-1-overall-in-the-NBA-Draft talent. He's also got an interesting backstory, and really, an ongoing side story. There are still questions from some in college basketball if Ayton will even qualify to play at the NCAA level. Speculation and cynicism over this issue was so prominent, many schools did not even bother recruiting Ayton, while others, like Kentucky, came late to the table.
For something like that to happen to the No. 1 recruit in his class, it's obviously unusual. But when Ayton spoke to reporters at the Nike-sponsored Peach Jam summer basketball event in July, he maintained that he wanted to play college basketball and he was told he was "on track" to do so. This commitment, at the very least, backs up Ayton's assertions.
On SportsCenter, Ayton was pointedly asked if bypassing college is still an option for him.
"Not at all," he said. "My family says college is a must."
Keep in mind: Arizona has been the destination for two previous notable five-star recruits, players who wound up skipping college altogether. Brandon Jennings (in 2008) and Terrance Ferguson ( just this June).
2. The next Kevin Garnett?
Ayton considers himself a KG comp, as do many others, and at first glance, he's got the shooting ability, dexterity, rebounding style and body frame that make the Garnett comp one that's relatively -- relatively -- reasonable. He doesn't have Garnett's demeanor, though. Not by a long shot. But he's just a teenager.
In specific terms of his skill, Ayton is highly regarded because there have been so few players similar to him over the past 10 years. He's very long, very strong, has touch from mid-range and has a good passing eye for a center. He's got a skill set that is moldable. He could be a modern big, a center with range and dynamism -- making him one of the most intriguing prospects in recent years -- or he could develop into a true low-post force, if that's where he wants to take his game. He's an elite defender as well.
3. How big a surprise was this?
Fairly surprising. Most in the recruiting world expected Kansas to get Ayton. Kansas was the leader for pretty much his entire recruitment. You can never count Kentucky out, and UK did make the final three, but again, Calipari and Co. were a little late to the game. If there was going to be a steal, that was the expected group.
Instead, Miller -- who had the benefit of being so close to Ayton -- comes in and gets another five-star recruit. That's the other aspect of this. Yes, it's surprising that Arizona came in and got Ayton, but Miller is not an underdog. Arizona has been a top-four program in recruiting over the past five years. This is the biggest get in school history, and it wasn't expected, but if anything it cements Miller's reputation as a top-notch recruiter.
4. Kentucky and Kansas fallout
Well, there's isn't much fallout for Kentucky, which doesn't really get affected by five-star players going elsewhere. John Calipari's had a top-two class more times than not since he got to Lexington. UK will continue to court a couple of really good big-man prospects in Mohamed Bamba and Wendell Carter.
Those two are studs. The only other five-star big man UK will chase, and will probably have a good shot at landing, is Nick Richards. Elsewhere, UK is chasing five-star guys like guard Gary Trent, Jr., forward P.J. Washington, wing Hamidou Diallo and point guard Trae Young.
Kansas doesn't have an in with any bigs at the moment, but Bill Self is trying to nab the likes of Troy Brown, Cod Riley and Jarred Vanderbilt. All are Kansas-level athletes. I would think he's going to get at least one of them.
5. Top remaining recruit
It's Bamba and -- you ready for this? -- he just took an unofficial visit to Harvard on Tuesday.
Bamba's a big, like Ayton, and some coaches I spoke with this summer actually preferred his style on the whole to Ayton. It's unlikely Bamba will wind up taking the throne of No. 1 overall player in the class, but he could ultimately turn into a better all-around pro if he continues to mold out his game. Bamba lists Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Harvard among his finalists.
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