Arizona Wildcats freshman sensation Deandre Ayton announced his presence with authority to the college basketball world this season. The 7’1″ 260 pound power forward / center averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, which ranked second and first respectively in the Pac 12. His 24 double-doubles set a single season school record, and tied for 2nd most by a freshman ever in a season. Ayton was named the Pac 12 Conference Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and the Pac 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, becoming the first player in conference history to collect those three awards in the same season.
“Deandre, he stands out because I haven’t seen a player like him. I think he’s the best. He does it on defense. He does it on offense. He does it every day in practice. He’s exceptional. If you watched the Pac 12 tournament, you watched a player that played a level that you won’t see very often.” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
Ayton, one of four finalists for the Naismith Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate player, is regarded by many as the likely number one overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. He has been described as a “unicorn” for his uncanny skill set. He shot 61.2% from the floor, including 34.3% (12-35) from 3 point range. Deandre tallied 73 dunks and 66 blocks. Broadcasters gushed all season long about the 19 year old.
Fran Fraschilla: “When god made a basketball body, he was thinking about Deandre Ayton.”
Clark Kellogg: “Deandre Ayton is the most powerful, graceful, athletic, skilled big guy, to come into college in his first year in the last 30 years.”
Bill Walton: “This guy has all of the workings of a tremendous star, a game changer, for the history of basketball.”
Charles Barkley: “Deandre Ayton is the best college basketball player I’ve seen in the last 25 years. This kid is going to be great.”
Ayton, who has a 7’5″ wingspan and just 5.4% body fat, grew up in Nassau, Bahamas where soccer was his first love. When Deandre was 12 years old, and already standing 6’8″, he attended a basketball camp close to home that would set his life on a different path. Ayton would soon move to San Diego, where he attended Balboa City School, and then to Phoenix, where he played at Hillcrest Prep Academy. During Deandre’s time in Phoenix, the athletic big man was quickly becoming the most dominant high school player in the country, and this year, college’s most prolific big man. “DeAndre has been in the spotlight the last couple of years as a great high school player. He’s played in the McDonald’s All American game. He’s played in virtually every scenario, regular season, and now conference tournaments.” Miller said.
Ayton has been resourceful in trying to find ways to improve his game. He watches YouTube videos of former and current NBA greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James, and adds parts of their games to his. The Wildcats big man even learns moves while playing video games. “With DeAndre, it’s true. I remember one time in the Bahamas, (where Arizona played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November) I showed him the spin move, because they were trying to cut him off and he would change directions. So I taught him the spin move literally before the game, and he did the move in the game, and he was like “Yo, thank you”. And from then on, he started doing the spin move every game, and he was just killing people with it.” Arizona sophomore guard Rawle Alkins said.
The laid back Bahamian not only had a great impact on the Wildcats on the court, but off the court as well. “DeAndre is full of personality. He’s always a happy guy.” Alkins said. Miller adds, “he has an energy and smile about him that makes him fun to be around.”
Unfortunately for Arizona, they only had one year to enjoy the Ayton experience, after the 4th seeded Wildcats fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to 13th seeded Buffalo 89-68. Miller, who called Ayton the greatest freshman to ever walk through Arizona, also said. “Deandre superseded any expectation that I could have ever had for him. He was an incredible teammate. Worked hard every day. I hate to see him go out in the first round. When you get someone like him, you want to go all the way, right? And when you lose in the first round, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But he was fantastic. He’s one of a kind. He’s destined to go do some great things.”
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