While most Wildcats fans are probably wondering whether current players will stay in Tucson or declare for the NBA Draft, it’s time to take a look at next season’s incoming freshmen, especially Five-Star Center DeAndre Ayton.
This past Friday, the nation’s top high school seniors showcased their talents in front of a capacity crowd at Barclays Center for Jordan Brand Classic XXXI. Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton was one of the stars!
The entire day featured a number of games but most fans waited in anticipation for the night cap to see college basketball’s elite class of talent. On a primetime ESPN broadcast, Cats fans had reason to tune it to see future Wildcat Center DeAndre Ayton.
Ayton is a consensus Five-Star prospect and is widely touted as the best big man in the class of 2017. While the ranking is nice, it does put a target on his back, especially when matching up against the rest of the country’s top talent.
Looking to follow up from a strong rebounding performance at the 2017 McDonald’s All American game back in March, the classic offered an opportunity to win over some new fans in the big apple with some fresh kicks on.
All of the Jordan Brand Classic players were honored prior to the game, with an inactive Michael Porter Jr. receiving the most applause. After the tip, the East and West teams showcased their athleticism, showing why this class of All-American’s has to be considered as one of the best, ever.
As the starting center for the West, Ayton got off to a slow start offensively but used his frame to maintain a good front court presence and speed to get up and down the floor as fast as the smaller guards.
The speed would pay off as DeAndre was able to close out the first and second half with a series of field goals at the end of each period. These offensive stretches look nice in the stat-sheet, but more importantly, Ayton’s scoring came at key moments that swung the momentum in the West team’s favor.
While the Wildcats don’t depend on a transition offense to score points, they have utilized athletic front court players to stretch the floor in recent years.
Ayton’s overall impressive skill set shows that he will be a freshman player that can positively impact the team immediately, and while he did not shoot from the perimeter all game, Ayton is more than capable of shooting from the perimeter. Additionally, DeAndre showcased elite athleticism when he posterized his West team front court battery mate Mohamed Bamba with this put back jam.
After the game, we asked DeAndre about his Jordan Brand Classic experience. “I dreamed of playing in front of these people,” DeAndre said when asked about the Barclay’s Center crowd which included the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Spike Lee, and Rick Ross (who performed after the game).
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While it’s just an exhibition game, the stage offers a taste of what the highest level of professional basketball would be like for the nation’s most talented high school basketball players.
DeAndre finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds in 19 minutes played; however, Miami commit Lonnie Walker Jr. and undeclared Brian Bowen took home MVP honors for the West and East, respectively. DeAndre has notably tried recruiting Bowen, who led all scorers with an impressive 26 points scored on only 13 shot attempts.
The impressive offensive showcase, especially from deep, and the noticeable Odell-esque hairdo raised eyebrows all around and I’m sure any school would be more than happy to land him. As of now, Arizona is one of his final five schools.
In the meantime, DeAndre did seem eager to head to Tucson. There is reason to be excited for next season’s Cats, which will feature one of the nation’s best recruiting classes along with the returning veteran presence of Allonzo Trier, a former Jordan Brand Classic MVP. When asked what he plans on accomplishing with future teammate Trier at Arizona, Ayton simply responded: “We tryna make history.”