While most collegiate hoop fans may find 7’1″ center Deandre Ayton’s decision to choose the Arizona Wildcats over heavyweights Kansas and Kentucky head scratching at the least, I feel that there is some solid reasoning behind the pick if you look past the surface.
Ayton turned the basketball world on its ear yesterday when he made the decision to attend Arizona on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
What made the news even more surprising was the fact that it looked like Kansas had done enough to reel in the supremely talented New Providence native. At one point last year, Ayton said that all of the major schools except Kansas had stopped pursuing him, as they feared that he’d fail to qualify academically, or that he’d forgo playing college basketball and choose to play professionally right after high school.
For months, Ayton has insisted that he intends to go to college and that he is doing everything he can to avoid eligibility issues.
If Ayton does qualify academically and does follow through with his word and suits up for the Wildcats, who have yet to break through to the Final Four under current head coach Sean Miller, then they will have top ranked team with a lot of expectations.
Ayton is a multifaceted scorer that can get it done in and outside of the paint. He has a smooth mid-range jump shot and gets up and down the court faster than most bigs, which allows easy transition duns. He’s also a force on defense. He’s quick enough to switch on pick and rolls and is also effective in the paint protecting the rim.
It’s likely that Ayton would be the centerpiece of a team that could rank among the best in the nation if the roster isn’t affected by players leaving for the pros next spring. While the Wildcats almost certainly will lose sophomore guard Alonzo Trier, McDonald’s All-Americans Ray Smith, Kobi Simmons, Rawle Atkins and highly touted freshman Lauri Markkanen could all be back in 2017.
Ayton said on SportsCenter that he trusts the Arizona staff and that he’s eager to play in college close to his new Arizona home.