Nobody scored more points in the Under Armour Finals 17U tournament last weekend in Georgia than Putnam Science (CT) Academy guard Eric Ayala. The accomplishment is bigger when you note that Ayala is just a rising junior who was playing against mostly older Class of 2017 prospects.
The 6-foot-4 prospect started the week with a bang, scoring 30 points in the tourney opener on Thursday. Every point was needed as his WeR1 had to go to triple overtime to knock out the Indy Hoosiers team led by the highly recruited duo of Kris Wilkes and Paul Scruggs.
Next he followed it with a 19-point game in a 73-64 quarterfinal win over DC Premier. In Saturday's championship game against Splash City, Ayala led all scorers with 21 points as WeR1 earned a 75-63 title game victory in the 16-team event..
His scoring average (20.8) was nearly double the 11.8 per game average he had with his team in the UAA spring circuit.
“I think I have been playing good this July,” said Ayala during the event to Scout.com. “It started at the UA All-American Camp."
It was during that camp in Charlotte that Peegs.com caught up with Ayala after a friendly battle he had there with WeR1 teammate Trevon Duval, the top ranked guard in the Class of 2017.
Ayala and Duval are from the Wilmington, Delaware area. Both decided to leave Wilmington for prep school powers.
Ayala is not currently ranked, but expect that might change following his big month. College coaches see his potential and when June 15th came and college coaches could directly call rising juniors, his phone was busy.
"I heard from Kansas, Seton Hall, UConn, Maryland, Virginia, USC, Miami, Indiana, SMU, a whole lot of schools," Ayala said.
He's not yet had a chance to get a first-hand look at most of the schools in early pursuit.
"I visited Temple, UConn a couple times because it is right near my school, and I have visited Providence," Ayala said.
Indiana assistant Chuck Martin has been the point man early for the Hoosiers in contacting Ayala.
"They're just showing interest right now," Ayala. "Just feeling me out, you know how that goes."
Ayala has some valuable international experience, having played last summer for the Puerto Rican national team.
"My dad is Puerto Rican," Ayala said. "We went over to Argentina in the FIBA nationals and we played five games."
His play stood out in the event.
"I think I won the scoring title for the whole FIBAs," Ayala. "Before the last game I think I was averaging about 26 (points). Had a low scoring game at the end that brought it down but I liked it a lot. It was a different experience."
Ayala's FIBA Americas Profile
His experience in Puerto Rico and Argentina left a lasting influence.
"People out there, they really appreciate basketball. They love it, just want to be around basketball."
This summer it is all about getting into the gym, weight work and even his nutrition.
"To get better, that's the main goal, improving every day," Ayala said. "Then to get my body right. Been eating right lately because I am changing my diet. College is coming soon so I am just trying to get ready for that."
While he showed his capable long range shot at the UA Finals, Ayala has better than average handling skills which could have him playing a number of positions at the next level.
He has one spot that he would prefer.
"I like playing point guard," Ayala said. "I am a big point guard, which I think is to my advantage. If I get little guards, I can post them up. If I get bigger guards, I can go by them. That's why I like the point guard, I can be more versatile. And I like seeing my teammates get involved."
He got plenty of experience in the role at Putnam this year.
"That was the only position that I played," Ayala said. "They knew I was trying to make a transition from being an off guard player to on the ball. So this whole high school season I played point guard. "
It was a little less specific role for Puerto Rico last year.
"They had me doing everything," laughed Ayala. "I was even playing center. I have a picture of (5-star 6'10) Wendell Carter and I doing the tip ball."
Scout recruiting analyst Brian Snow evaluates Eric Ayala:
Eric Ayala is a very good scorer. He can shoot the basketball out to well beyond the three point range, and is also a scorer who can get to the rim and finish with athleticism. His feel for the game needs work, but he does have a lot of upside.