Nation’s top prep basketball prospects eyeing UA, ASU


Marvin Bagley III and DeAndre Ayton, who both played for Arizona high schools and are rated as No. 1 in their respective recruiting classes, are apparently giving serious consideration to starting their college careers in-state.

And that says a lot about the men’s basketball programs at University of Arizona, which has re-established itself among the nation’s elite programs, and Arizona State, which is once again getting national exposure after the hire of Bobby Hurley to run its program.

Ayton, who is currently attending Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, is considered by most recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2017.  Bagley, who attended Corona del Sol High School in Tempe and helped that school to its fourth straight D-I state title, is ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2018.

As we reported in a May 3 Phxfan article, Ayton had inexplicably failed to attract college suitors, telling the media that his only offer had come from the Kansas Jayhawks.  It’s not surprising that a top-tier program like Kansas was interested.  But it was perplexing that there weren’t a boatload of other offers.

At the time, Ayton had a wish list of nine schools that included Arizona and Arizona State – but no offers except the one from Kansas.  But now it’s being reported that a couple of major programs are stepping into the recruiting war for the 7-foot, 235-pound center. Kentucky and Arizona have stepped up to the plate.

And Arizona appears to have a legitimate shot at his talents.  Part of their pitch to the youngster is that he would become the school’s first No. 1 draft pick, should Ayton be able to earn that distinction in the one year that he is likely to devote to college ball.

The reason the rest of the college programs backed away from recruiting Ayton, a native of the Bahamas who came to Hillcrest from San Diego, revolved around a couple of factors.  There were rumors floating around that he was thinking about skipping college to play professionally overseas and there were also concerns about his academic eligibility.

But Ayton has been taking online courses over the summer and is coordinating with the NCAA to make sure his progress will be enough to guarantee eligibility.

Bagley, too, has been dealing with off-the-court issues.  After leading the school to the state championship as a freshman, the 6’11” power forward abruptly left Corona to enroll at Hillcrest, a new school in the Phoenix area that had plans to be a national prep academy on the level of the well-known Findlay Prep, a basketball factory in Nevada.  His father was also hired as an assistant coach.

Just a couple of games into the season, he left that program and began home schooling while trying to decide where to go next.  That turned out to be Sierra Canyon High School in California, which features a nationally-ranked basketball program.

He was ruled ineligible to play in 2015 by the state’s governing body, so he sat out last season.

At last report, his list of finalists was down to six schools, and UofA and ASU were on that short list.  The others were Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, and Oregon.

The chances of both top prospects playing in-state are extremely unlikely.  The chances of one of them picking an Arizona school are better – but even that would have to be considered a stretch.

Ayton might be the surprise.  He emphasized the importance of relationships and says he’s less concerned with the prestige of the program and more interested in finding a head coach he can relate to.

ASU’s Hurley is young and relates well to this generation, and Sean Miller‘s staff has a reputation for reeling in recruits by making them feel they are part of a close-knit family in Tucson.

Long shots, yes… but stranger things have happened in college recruiting.