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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Standing Tall and Talented

Simon Asher
Freshman Deandre Ayton slam dunks during the Red-Blue contest on Oct. 20.

At 7-foot-1, freshman Deandre Ayton stands above his peers — physically. He towers above the rest of the college basketball world athletically as well. At first glimpse, Ayton is beyond definition. He simply is so big you can’t fathom he is just 19 years old. There have been 7-footers before at Arizona, even now with senior Dusan Ristic in tow. Ayton is more than just another prototypical big man.

The stereotype is pretty standard. Centers can play defense down low, and bang with the big guys while attempting to score. Guards are slashers, shooters and dribblers who make plays. Ayton is both, unbelievably.

In Arizona’s first exhibition win, Ayton stole a pass to the wing and took it coast-to-coast for the slam. Centers just don’t do that.

His diversity translates to both ends as well.

“I can guard any position,” Ayton said. “I want to be a very versatile player.”

He is pretty matter-of-fact when asked questions about his play, almost as if he is surprised the interviewer didn’t know he was already a great player at everything he does. It is this confidence, and the ability to back it up, that places Ayton atop the NBA Draft market for next season. Ayton is a projected lottery pick, with most prognosticators having him go top-three.

Ayton has ability down low in the post to dominate any opponent and if, for whatever reason, he doesn’t have it going in the post he can just step out and hit a three or mid-range jumper. He is smooth, fast, strong and explosive, and he may well go down as the first Arizona player to ever be selected No. 1 overall.

“Lauri Markkanen was obviously an exceptional shooter for how tall he is and I would say Lauri is a little bit better than Deandre, but not nearly the gap that you would anticipate,” Miller said. “He has the ability to step out and shoot the three, so it’s up to us to really adjust and make sure we take advantage of all the talents and skills that Deandre brings to the table.”

Ayton was the No. 1 collegiate prospect coming into Arizona. He committed to the Wildcats over a year ago, and despite rumblings about playing pro overseas, or the potential of him not being eligible through the NCAA (due to course load at his previous school) he, himself, has never wavered about his commitment in coming to Tucson. In fact, he said he was here for one primary purpose: to get Sean Miller to the Final Four and win a National Championship.

“College is a must,” he told ESPN per Jeff Goodman. “My family wants me to go to college. It’s important for me and my mom. I want to go to Arizona and win a national championship. Arizona won its only national title 20 years ago, and I’d like to help bring another one to Tucson.”

Beyond the obvious, Ayton is a fierce competitor. Just a few views on social media will tell you that he is a no nonsense guy, especially on NBA2K. He loves to win and his drive is what fans are hoping can take the Wildcats to a place they haven’t been since 2001; the Final Four.

Last year, Arizona had Lauri Markkanen and went 32-5, but lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Xavier. It was a game that was highlighted by an 11-minute stretch in which Markkanen didn’t shoot the ball. It would be hard to believe the same thing will happen should that situation ever materialize again. Ayton is a dominant force from every area of the court. In Arizona’s two exhibition games, Ayton averaged 26 points and 10.5 rebounds on 19-for-25 shooting. He is only going to get better, and so are the Wildcats.

In the mean time, Ayton, a product of the Bahamas by way of Phoenix, will have to bide his time until the NCAA tournament gets here in order to fulfill his promise of reaching the top of college basketball. So sit back and enjoy this once in a lifetime athlete.

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