FROM the No.1 overall NBA Draft pick to a possible number one overall pick of the future, Mychal “Sweet Bells” Thompson lauded the potential of top prospect Deandre Ayton and offered some advice on his path to success.
“Stay humble, stay hungry and stay healthy. Obviously he will have to be humble and be willing to be coached, but he’s extremely talented,” Thompson said.
In the early 1970s, Thompson starred at Miami Jackson Senior High where he helped lead the Generals to a Class 4A state title before going on to attend the University of Minnesota. He went on to become a standout for the Golden Gophers and was selected by the Portland Trailblazers No.1 overall in 1978.
He noted that the prep prospect scouting system has developed exponentially over the last four decades since he went through the process and that Ayton now has to navigate a much more complicated field.
“Keep your inner circle small, don’t let a bunch of distractions creep in and derail you from your goals and your dreams,” he said. “Things are different now than when I played because you have so many more distractions with social media. Everybody now has access to you through the Internet. So he really has to focus on what his goal is, keep God first in his life, remember that the Bahamas is watching him and work hard and he’s going to be in the NBA in four years.”
Thompson called the 17-year-old high school junior the future of Bahamian basketball.
On the initial posting of the “ESPN 60” for the class of 2017, Ayton topped the list. They list Ayton as a five-star recruit with an overall grade of 97 out of a possible 100 points. Ayton is also listed as the No.1 recruit in the class of 2017 by scout.com and rivals.com of Yahoo Sports.
The 7’0 foot tall, 235-pound pivot, in his inaugural season with the Balboa City School Force in San Diego, California, Ayton averaged 21.1 points, 16 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots per game. He went on to finish with double doubles in 21 of his 22 regular season games.
He is considered the top high school player in the United States, irrespective of class, despite the fact that he will enter the 11th grade this fall. He has received official offers thus far from the University of Kentucky, Arizona and San Diego State.
Ayton was recently featured in an ESPN insider article documenting his rise to the top of the basketball recruiting circuit, and points to a performance at home last summer as the catalyst for his rise.
His stops on the grassroots summer basketball circuit included appearances at the Nike Peach Jam, Fab 48 tournament and the LeBron James Skills Academy, but was highlighted right at home during the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s Summer of Thunder.
He finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds to lead the locally-based Providence Storms to a shocking 84-83 win over the then AP No. 19 ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
He missed much of the season due to a lingering foot injury but was still recognised as one of the top sophomores in America when he was named to the MaxPreps 2014-15 Sophomore All-American First-Team.
Currently, Ayton is making his rounds on the AAU Spring/Summer circuit, most recently at the Under Armour Association League where he made his return last month after missing more than three months of action.
He also participated at the NBA Players’ Association Top 100 camp.
“I think he will be a cornerstone for the Olympics and national teams for the next 12-15 years,” Thompson said. “The Bahamas has to get used to seeing him.”