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The next big thing in college basketball

Ayton said that greater focus needs to be placed on fundamentals in The Bahamas
  • ESPN No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2018 DeAndre Ayton said that there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on player development in The Bahamas, as well as more facilities put in place for the kids to practice. FILE

RANDY SMITH
Guardian Sports Reporter
randy@nasguard.com

Published: Jan 04, 2017

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Bahamian high school basketball sensation DeAndre Ayton is widely regarded as the best prospect at the grassroots level, regardless of class. However, unlike some of the other kids ranked at the top with him, Ayton’s journey to the forefront of high school basketball has been much different.

Most of the elite players in the United States are scouted in junior school and then further developed when they get to the varsity level. They attend countless camps and clinics during those years that help them to further hone their skills on the basketball court.

However, Ayton missed out on a lot of that, as he moved to the United States just three years ago, and wasn’t considered a top recruit in the class until 2014. He attended Balboa Prep in San Diego, California, when he first arrived in the United States, and although he dominated immediately upon his arrival, he was still behind in some areas due to the lack of competition he faced while at home in The Bahamas.

Ayton said that the move to Balboa was needed in order for him to have a chance to make it, especially since the local system lacks so much from a fundamental standpoint.

“It’s rough trying to make it from The Bahamas, but if you really want it, you have to put your heart and your mind into it,” said Ayton in an interview with Lamont Taylor of GetMeRecruited at the John Wall Holiday Classic this past weekend. “Moving to the United States isn’t an easy task. It’s a whole new ball game. You have to adapt to it quickly, or they will take advantage of you. There are barely any opportunities for kids to come over to the United States, and the competition isn’t really helping anyone out to be honest.”

Ayton said that there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on player development in The Bahamas, as well more facilities put in place for kids to practice.

“We have about three indoor courts in The Bahamas, so when we come to the United States and see the indoor courts, we get distracted and sometimes lose our opportunity,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people coming back and showing the kids how to play. Everyone just wants to run and jump. They feel like once they can dunk they’re good, but it takes a lot more than that. We need more mentors to give back to the kids without always looking to get something back out of it. When I was home recently, I saw some big kids packing bags, and that hurt my heart. No one is working with them. It’s just a waste of height. I felt so bad seeing that.”

Ayton is tabbed to be the likely No. 1 pick in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft in 2018, after what most expect to be a “one and done” in college basketball. He is regarded as the next big thing in college basketball, even though it will likely be for just one season. The New Providence native recently signed to play for the University of Arizona Wildcats. He also received offers from Kentucky, Kansas and Louisville.


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