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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


DeAndre Ayton, No. 1 basketball recruit for 2017, commits to Arizona

Tyler Baker
Arizona head coach Sean Miller throws his arms upward following the Wildcats’ victory over California in McKale Center on Thursday, March 3

Center DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 basketball recruit for 2017, chose the Arizona Wildcats to further his basketball career before making the jump to the NBA. The Kansas Jayhawks were the odds-on favorites to land Ayton. Had they landed the 7-foot center, he would have been the Jayhawks’ second No. 1 recruit since 2013.

The Phoenix local [1] is coming off a season in which he averaged 21 points, 16 rebounds and almost four blocks per game for Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix. Against Sunrise, Ayton messed around and earned a triple double with 52 points, 33 rebounds and 10 blocks in what was by far his best game.

“I’ve seen him grow a ton in the last year, even in the last three months,” Hillcrest coach Kyle Weaver said per Jeff Goodman of ESPN. “He’s become a leader. There’s no one I’d rather go to battle with than DeAndre. He has such a bright future, and Arizona will certainly have a chance to win a national title with him in the fold.”

Ayton joins a productive list of 5-star recruits under coach Sean Miller including Stanley Johnson, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Aaron Gordon and Allonzo Trier, to name a few. Miller also had 5-star center Kaleb Tarczewsi at his disposal for four seasons. With Ayton’s athleticism, shot-blocking and inside presence, it is not out of the question that he should be on the Nasimath watch list next season. 

This is the first overall No. 1 recruit in the Sean Miller-era, and this should solidify Arizona as Final Four contenders next season. 

“College is a must,” he told ESPN per 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.”

Ayton is the first No. 1 overall recruit to pick a Pac-12 Conference school since Kevin Love chose UCLA in 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

He has drawn comparisons to Kevin Garnett, and that is a lofty comparison considering K.G. is a future NBA hall-of-famer.

“That fire he plays with, it is the same fire I have,” Ayton said about the comparison to Garnett. With Ayton as his defensive anchor, coach Miller actually has a legitimate shot-blocking threat for his pack line defense. Miller has had solid post defenders, but never a player with Ayton’s defensive capabilities.

The other team involved in this troika, the Kentucky Wildcats, has had big man achieve massive success in the NBA. The program boasts names to the likes of Demarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Davis, who each led Kentucky to at least the Elite Eight and are all likely NBA All-Stars this season.

Ayton decided to stay in-state for college over multiple great choices such as Kentucky, Kansas, San Diego State and Maryland. He joins 4-star point guard Alex Barcello as the first to recruit for Arizona’s 2017 class. Just like Ayton, Barcello is another in-state prospect as he hails from Tempe and is currently attending Corona Del Sol High School. 

“My family and I can benefit by coming to my games,” Ayton told ESPN on his decision to stay close to home. ”Coach [Joe] Pasternack and Sean Miller, I really trust those guys. I know they can help me get to the next level.”

Correction: [1] Phoenix native edited to Phoenix local. DeAndre Ayton was born in the Bahamas.

Follow Ivan Leonard and Dominic Baciocco on Twitter.

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