You would think a 7-foot-tall basketball player who has the agility of a guard on the court and averages a scoring double-double throughout his final two years in high school would have little left to prove to college recruiters.
But DeAndre Ayton is still proving himself as he prepares for his first season of college ball.
His latest challenge was convincing college scouts he deserved to be ranked at the top of his 2017 recruiting class. Once considered the No. 1 prospect by several of the major services, in April one of the most prominent services, Scout.com, dropped Ayton to third in its rankings.
That didn’t sit well with the graduate from Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, and probably bothered Sean Miller as well. Ayton was the first No. 1 prospect to be swept up in the recruiting nets of the head hoops coach at University of Arizona, an accomplishment that had been well-publicized at the time of his commitment.
Now the enlightened folk at Scout have apparently seen the error in their judgement.
“Sometimes, you just change your mind,” Scout’s Evan Daniels and Josh Gershon said in an article earlier this week announcing the decision to move Ayton back to the top of the pile.
“For some time we have thought that Ayton was the most talented player in the 2017 class, but he hasn’t always been consistent with his effort and production. That’s why we originally dropped him from the top spot.”
The downgrade in mid-April was surprising since Scout had Ayton as the No. 1 prospect in his class for the last three years. But Daniels and Gershon said they felt Ayton “hasn’t always been trustworthy”, citing what they called a spotty effort during high school, AAU, and camp events. Now, they say, he’s “in the process of maturing as a prospect” and deserves a second look.
That process better get kicked into overdrive because Ayton is expected to be an impact player for the Wildcats and will likely be on the floor for the season opener.
But this wasn’t the first time in recent memory that the big man with a soft touch and smooth stroke has been seemingly disrespected. After his junior year at Hillcrest – the season he averaged 30 points, 19 rebounds, and almost six block a game – he was surprised and disappointed that almost no college offers came his way. By the time May rolled around that year, his only offer came from Kansas.
Speculation on the lack of interest centered on a concern about his academics, which turned out to be a non-issue, and his perceived interest in skipping college and, since he was 19 years old, entering the NBA draft.
The draft idea, too, was soon put behind him and the offers began to flow. Miller convinced him to stay in Arizona and let him prepare the young stud for the pro game, knowing that Ayton will be a one-and-done. The coach, who will start his ninth year at UofA in the fall, calls Ayton a “once-in-a-generation” kind of player.
But Arizona is still in the mix for its second No. 1 prospect, this one in the class of 2018. Marvin Bagley III, who also played a year at Hillcrest after transferring there from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe after his freshman year, has the Wildcats on his short list of the top college programs in the country. Bagley transferred to Sierra Canyon High School in California after his sophomore season at Hillcrest.
Bagley, too, will be a one-and-done. But Miller, who consistently pulls in top-10 recruiting classes, knows that comes with the territory.
Thanks in large part to Ayton, his 2017 class is ranked No.3 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com.