DeAndre Ayton: Sophomore Sampler

DeAndre Ayton holds the rare distinction of being not only the top center in the sophomore class, or even the top overall player in the class, but the No. 1 prospect in all of high school basketball.

Early Credentials

Increasingly, players born outside the United States are climbing the ranks of American prep basketball. The sport’s global influence has reached every longitude and latitude, and over the past several years elite more prospects have migrated to the U.S. for high school and then college.

That list includes NBA rookie Andrew Wiggins, current top three senior Skal Labissiere — and sensational sophomore big man DeAndre Ayton.

Ayton’s easy, natural, yet highly productive style make him a rarity

Ayton was born in the Bahamas and emigrated to the U.S. in time for high school, where he attends San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City School. During his brief prep career, he already has accomplished feats that few of his peers can match.

He was scintillating at times last summer competing at events such as the LeBron James Skills Academy and Fab 48. Last August, he played for a local Bahamas team and racked up 17 points and 18 rebounds in a surprise exhibition victory over North Carolina.

Ayton has continued to showcase elite talent this season. The 6-11, 205-pounder impresses both with his natural talent and relative polish for his age.

His recruitment almost undoubtedly well expand into one dominated by the country’s elite programs, but perhaps not anytime soon. Depending on whether other non-American natives such as Thon Maker choose to bypass college for a professional overseas option — players with international pedigree are likely to be less daunted by that option than the native-born Americans — it’s entirely possible that Ayton could skip college as well.

The Next Step

Ayton’s prime attributes include his height and long arms, combined with truly outstanding speed. He changes ends effortlessly and with a tremendous, free-flowing stride, enabling him to make an impact on any play.

In addition to his reach and speed, he already possesses some back-to-the-basket scoring as well as the makings of a face-up game. He has plenty more improvement to make, but all the signs have been encouraging thus far.

Meanwhile, he’s an excellent rebounder who has the ability and the desire to dominate on the glass. His shotblocking potential also is considerable.

We list him as a center, but down the road he might progress sufficiently to move to power forward.

Make no mistake: There’s always a temptation to overstate underclassmen. Everything they do well is a plus, and all the things they don’t do as well get overlooked due to age. For that reason, it pays to exercise caution when assessing their long-range potential, and Ayton must continue improving or two years from now everyone will be trumpeting some new sophomore phenom.

But don’t let that caveat throw you off the trail. Ayton landed at No. 1 in our ultimate 100 for good season, and he did so despite the presence of a very talented trio of juniors. We’ll have to see if he maintains the momentum and upholds prodigious reputation, but when one evaluates his immensely high ceiling and his immensely high floor, his lofty perch within the grassroots realm becomes self-evident.

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