Tuesday, September 6, 2016

No. 1 overall recruit DeAndre Ayton picks Arizona over Kansas, Kentucky

Team EZ Pass' DeAndre Ayton #0 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Team EZ Pass' DeAndre Ayton #0 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)


The Kansas basketball program’s long pursuit of No. 1 ranked prospect DeAndre Ayton ended Tuesday just after 5:20 p.m., when Ayton announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter that he was headed to Arizona.

Ayton becomes the first No. 1 ranked player ever landed by Arizona, which won out over Kansas and Kentucky.

Announcing his decision live on SportsCenter, Ayton was asked where he was headed and, after a long pause, the 7-foot, 245-pound center from Phoenix’s Hillcrest Academy said, “I’m going to go to the University of Arizona.”

With that, he slapped on a navy blue Arizona hat while teammates and friends cheered in the background behind him.

“I made Arizona home, going to Hillcrest Prep and my family and I can benefit from it by (them) coming to my games,” Ayton said on SportsCenter. “We really trust (the Arizona coaches and) their program and I know that they can help me get to the next level.”

The No. 1 prospect by and ESPN, as well as the composite No. 1 overall player in the 2017 class, according to 247 Sports, Ayton, who hails from the Bahamas — along with KU junior forward Dwight Coleby — made an unofficial visit to Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 23, watching the Jayhawks beat Texas, and followed it up by playing in a game at Lawrence Free State High against Wichita's Sunrise Christian Academy, where he had 11 thunderous dunks on his way to 35 points, 21 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Because of KU's status as the first team in on Ayton and the team that invested the most time recruiting him, many believed that Ayton would have a difficult time saying no to KU coach Bill Self and lead recruiter Kurtis Townsend.

But the familiarity and comfort of staying close to home won out and Ayton seemed relieved that the process was done.

“It’s been rough, to be honest," he said after picking the Wildcats. "Phone call after phone call, trying to do homework, staying in the gym. My mom and I just stayed level-headed and (tried to) be down to Earth with things.”

Missing out on Ayton certainly qualifies as a blow to KU's recruiting efforts in the 2017 class. Long considered KU's top current target, the Jayhawks now will have to move on to plan B for a big man in the guard-heavy 2017 class.

The Jayhawks are still involved with several of the top forwards and centers in the Rivals Top 50 and will likely schedule visits — both in-home and on campus — with a few of them in the coming days.

As for Ayton's future, in addition to being touted as a likely Top 5 draft pick — if not No. 1 overall — in the 2018 NBA Draft, the 18-year-old big man said on Tuesday that heading overseas to play until he becomes eligible for the NBA was not on his agenda.

“No. Not at all," he said. College is a must.”


Dyrk Dugan 2 years, 6 months ago

Might as well shut down the program. We NEVER get these #1s; there are probably no other teenagers to recruit to play for the Jayhawks. Woe is us who cheer for and support University of Kansas men's basketball.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

Half the Chicken Littles are thinking exactly that.

The other half don't want any one and dones anyway.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

And the other half are comfortable with whomever Coach Self and staff bring in.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

Dick, that's three halves. Your group are called rational fans, not Chicken Littles.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

Why would one and done freshman Ayton want to compete with sophomore Azubuike for minutes?

Noah Oone 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree. A sophomore Azubuike is better, IMO, than a freshman Ayton. Big men are always more comfortable and productive under Bill Self's system when they have had time to learn it. Ayton was not a necessary get for us. Need to focus on recruiting guards.

Aaron Paisley 2 years, 6 months ago

Ayton is a 4, he would've played next to UA next year. Self did have Withey and T-Rob as front court starters together for a year. That would've been a similar situation had Ayton come to KU.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

He's got a reasonable jumper but is raw. Video of him shows fastbreak finishing, jumpers and putbacks, with the odd block. No post moves or face up offense to the hoop. Would he help? Sure. He's too raw to be a OAD 4 and too soft to take minutes from Azubuike.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

My first thought, though it is hard to fault him when he has 'zona in his backyard.

Has 'zona sent many/any bigs to the NBA?

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

This list includes all the notable players that Sean Miller has coached at Arizona:

Solomon Hill (2009–2013)

Lamont Jones (2009-2011) Derrick Williams (2009–2011) Kyle Fogg (2009-2012) Solomon Hill (2009–2013) Mark Lyons (2012-2013) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (2013–15) Grant Jerrett (2012–2013) Aaron Gordon (2013–2014) Nick Johnson (2011–2014) Brandon Ashley (2012-2015) Stanley Johnson (2014–2015) T. J. McConnell (2013–2015) Kaleb Tarczewski (2012–2016)

At one time Kaleb was considered an OAD by some of the early-season draft picks but even after four years at Arizona, he still wasn't drafted. All the major recruiting sites had him as a top 10 player. Scout: #6 Rivals: #9 ESPN: #4

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

Arizona: Where big's go to die.. Miller should have stayed in Xavier (big fish in a small pond)

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

I certainly don't wish any bad luck but Miller better be able to get this player ready for the NBA (in the current OAD period) then he did with Kaleb

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 6 months ago

You nailed it Jay and Noah. As for Tarzewski, he never was the force that he was projected to be. Living in Tucson as I do, I can assure you that he didn't create a lot of memories for the fan base here.

Dyrk, you undoubtedly are being facetious, since we did get Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson.

Jeff Coffman 2 years, 6 months ago

I believe fAcEtIOUs(lY) is the only word in the English language that has all the vowels in alphabetical order.

Mallory Briggans 2 years, 6 months ago

The news of Ayton going to Arizona was a surprise given the fact that Kansas was the only team actively recruiting him. Whether you like OAD players or not... having him for that 1 year wouldn't have been a bad thing......Now moving forward the program will still be in the conversation wheather its winning another BIG 12 title as well as a team in the tourney. But I can hear the rest of the conference happy to hear the news that Ayton is going to Arizona .....COACH THEM UP!!!!! AND GET THEM READY ... I trust Coach Self will do that

Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Jay is exactly right. He would have taken a real beating in practice in The Land Of Az!!

Noah also hits it. The big men are the machine but the guard play is the engine that drives it.

As long as Mr.Bill is our coach, we may never not at least tie for the Big 12 Title.

If I was from the Bahamas, I'd probably take an Arizona winter over a Kansas winter any day of the week. :).

It is kind of a shame, however. Azu and Ayton banging on each other in practice would have been epic!!!

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

Agree but Azu and Bragg will be epic in their own right. Not to dismiss this out of hand but Self was certainly counting on Ayton to sign with Kansas but as one door shuts, another opens.

Ayton needed Kansas a lot more than we needed him. Still, I wish we had signed him..

Art Jefferson 2 years, 6 months ago

Who would want to bump and bang with "THE GREAT AND POWERFUL AZ" in practice daily for a year? I hope we get a big who can and who can take over his starting position after he goes to the league.

Art Jefferson 2 years, 6 months ago

Lucky Luc is gonna have his hands full, but I would bet he can and will hold his own and his start.

Sarah Carr 2 years, 6 months ago

Just think of the tv audience on the west coast! Wonder if DA realized half the country would be asleep when he's playing? Move on.

Tyler Capone 2 years, 6 months ago

Imagine investing so much time into this kid (3 years) Just for him to spurn us at the end of it all...crazy. Huge loss I don't care what anyone says, he is an animal we needed him. Hopefully Bill can get some other big in here in the Class of '17.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

We certainly put a lot of effort and time in recruiting this guy but the cupboard will hardly be empty in 2017 with Azubuike, Coleby, Lightfield and Maxwell plus I'm sure Self will find another 4 to replace Bragg.

But admittedly, I was pretty much stunned when he picked Arizona over Kansas. No hard feelings, I'm sure he thinks he is doing what's best for him but maybe he should have looked at Sean Miller's record in producing and progressing big men.

Chris Shaw 2 years, 6 months ago

Good Post Aaron P. As Aaron stated, Ayton is most definitely a PF 4 in center's body. This wasn't a case of Udoka vs Ayton or Ayton vs Udoka. Always have to love the "belittling" of a recruit that doesn't choose Kansas. No post moves or face up game and he's too raw to be a OAD? Too soft? Always love the "Raw" commentary on a kid. He would be the #1 player picked in the 2017 or 2018 NBA draft. Take your pick.

Despite choosing Zona, Ayton may be my favorite recruit of all time. The manner in which he held his recruitment was top notch. It was classic. Less than 3 hours before his announcement he had everyone and I mean all the recruiting "experts" completely scrambling and at a loss when it came to updates and social media updates right up to his announcement. The fact nobody knew anything was refreshing to see for this big of a recruit in this day of technology.

Lastly, Big 12 and SEC have stricter policies on the admittance of "Partial Qualifiers" so UK and KU may not have been able to admit even if he wanted to go to either school. It will be interesting to see if he qualifies.

Regardless, one of the better shock announcement recruitments in quite sometime. Chalk one up to the kid. That was great.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

No way would I have a favorite recruit who picked somewhere else than KU. Other than that - good post Chris.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

We're fortunate to have such geniuses among us. While every recruiting ranking, evaluation service, scouting report etc has Ayton as a center, our "experts" are here to enlighten us with the info that he's not....

How did we get so lucky?

It's a shame he didn't sign. Freshman 7 footers are so typically ready to dominate immediately....

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 5 months ago

There was this kid named Davis..but Ayton is no Davis.

James Whittington 2 years, 6 months ago

I am glad we have these "experts" on this site. It is nice to hear everyone expressing their opinions and thoughts. Just because you don't agree doesn't make them "chicken littles". You do have good insight too from time to time. I also enjoy your negativity and arrogance sometimes, it makes for a humorous read for sure

Mick Allen 2 years, 6 months ago

As Chris pointed out there is still a question as to whether he will qualify academically.

Michael Leiker 2 years, 6 months ago

Good, no wasted time with a one year guy.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

Still going to have to waste this season on Josh Jackson.....

Robert Brock 2 years, 6 months ago

Whomever Kansas covets, Arizona taketh away...

Kent Richardson 2 years, 6 months ago

The fickle finger of big time college BB picks its nose.

duke hester 2 years, 6 months ago

Seems Coach Self and staff do okay with whatever shows up on the court! Wish the kid well.....and am sure March will show Hawks are still to be reckoned with! I doubt the sky will fall ! RCJ GKU

Glen Miller 2 years, 6 months ago

But, but, but....... we were the only ones recruiting him and the "experts" said he was almost a sure pick to come here. LOL it's not life or death folks, I'm quite sure that no matter how high or low our class is ranked. No matter what recruits we end up with...... Bill Self will do just fine. It's an 18 year old kid that has hundreds of coaches and players trying to get at him. He did what he thought was best for himself and stayed close to home. No need to be hateful or shady towards a kid that none of us even know or are affected by.

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 6 months ago

You're right, Mick. While I haven't heard anything specifically about his academics, there must be a little smoke there since many high-powered programs didn't go after him.

Regardless, he will be a OAD, so he would have had to compete with Udoka as a returning sophomore. Am sure that Coach Self would have loved the combination of Ayton and Udoka, but I will take a sophomore over a freshman just about every time.

Mr. Brock. No offense, but do you ever have a positive thing to say about recruiting. You seem obsessed in telling us whom KU won't get and why. Hey, it doesn't cost any more to be positive so let's just agree that Coach Self and his staff do a masterful job of recruiting.

Robert Brock 2 years, 6 months ago

Yo, Hobbs - I am as big a KU homer as anybody, but there is no way that the Ayton recruitment can be seen as anything but a Kansas flub.

Plan B is getting a top-quality point guard; I sincerely hope that the Hawks can land one.

Jay Scott 2 years, 6 months ago

....because if Ayton had signed there would be no recruiting of point guards?

Joe Baker 2 years, 6 months ago

Miller is a turd after he showed his azz on national tv during a game when he totally humiliated Tarc.

I thought players would take more time before playing for Sean the turd Miller. He is the worst players coach ever.

Good luck DA and watch ur back. Miller will screw u royal. Ask Tarc.

Mallory Briggans 2 years, 6 months ago

Well Ayton going to Arizona is water under the bridge......if there is ANY consolation.....HE DIDNT CHOOSE KENTUCKY ......i think we can all live with that .....

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 6 months ago

Sorry you feel that way Robert. I will wait for your next prediction of who we won't get and why, or how we flubbed somewhere. I prefer not to visit that world.

Mike Greer 2 years, 6 months ago

I was watching Bill Self coach basketball long before he came to KU. He's had great success everywhere he's coached. I can't figure out why any recruit would want to play for anyone else. But yet they do. I'm sure there was some sound (at least for an 18 year old young man) reason why he chose not to come play for Coach Self, and it may very well have been a concern with playing time or the "complicated" system KU has (get the ball in the hoop, more complicated than it sounds). Maybe it had something to do with Diallo, or maybe he never heard of Embiid or Withey. Regardless of where some #1 recruit goes, I can take solace in the fact Coach Self will have another great team.

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 6 months ago

Good analysis, Mike. All of your reasons may have been a factor, or perhaps it is simply that he wanted to play for a different elite program. There certainly are several out there, although I don't think that Arizona is quite in the top tier like KU, UK, Duke, Michigan State, and North Carolina, and perhaps others.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 5 months ago

Ayton can always transfer to KU after he realizes his mistake...

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