Wildcats land No. 1 basketball player in country in DeAndre Ayton

Published: Sep. 6, 2016 at 7:34 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM MST
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DeAndre Ayton (ESPN screenshot via Twitter)
DeAndre Ayton (ESPN screenshot via Twitter)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona coach Sean Miller keeps knocking on the door of the Final Four, but now he's decided to take a battering ram to the barrier.

Miller has what is likely a preseason top 10 team for this season, and on Tuesday, he poured rocket fuel into the tank for the 2017-18 season when he secured the commitment of the nation's No. 1 prospect, 7-footer DeAndre Ayton from Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix.

Based on the ranking alone, he's the top prospect to ever commit to Arizona, and he  is already considered the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Ayton chose Arizona -- assistant coach Joe Pasternack was his lead recruiter -- over Kansas and Kentucky.

"Coach Pasternack and Sean Miller, we really trust those guys and I know they can help me get to the next level," Ayton said on ESPN2 after announcing his decision on SportsCenter.

There has been some concern about Ayton's NCAA eligibility and if he would bypass college entirely to play a year overseas before entering the NBA.

The current thought is that his coursework from various prep schools will be in order, and he said on SportsCenter that there was no chance he would skip college.

"No, none at all," Ayton said. "My family said college is a must."

Ayton was born in the Bahamas and lived in San Diego before his family moved to Phoenix before his junior year in high school. He is long, strong and agile. He is the model of the modern big man, combining down-low skills with 3-point range and a nice passing touch. No surprise, then, that he said on ESPN that he compares his game to NBA superstar Kevin Garnett.

DraftExpress.com broke down his game like this last month:

What's so impressive about Ayton at this stage, is his physical and athletic abilities, and how he uses them to have an impact on the game. He has the ability to dominate the game in the paint, using his size and strength to finish inside, crash the boards, and protect the rim. He is not the most explosive athlete, but he is long, and quick off the floor, and has the fluidity and change of speed to look at ease running the floor in transition, not a skill many guys his size have. Ayton's back to the basket game is not yet polished, and he often just relies on his physical tools to get him what he wants. He is a willing passer, who can force things at times, but made some really nice high-low passes, using his size to see over the top of the defense.

Ayton's motor and aggressiveness has been questioned at times, often blending in, when it seems he should be able to impact the game on almost every possession. At 7-feet tall he can dominate the game in the paint, but can often get caught floating around the perimeter.

ESPN concurred with the Garnett comparisons, writing:

"Ayton is a physical specimen with a Kevin Garnett frame already. He has very long arms and broad shoulders and he is quite bouncy. He can step out and nail the 17-foot jump shot and he finish with force and fluidity in transition."

Miller has taken Arizona to three regional finals, but hasn't been able to take the next step to the Final Four. He also had Xavier on the brink, getting the Mountaineers to a regional final in 2008.

Ayton is the second player to commit to Arizona's 2017 class, the other being point guard Alex Barcello from Tempe Corona del Sol.

Miller, for several years now at Arizona, has recruited as well as anybody in the country not named Calipari or Krzyzewski. Now, with Ayton, Miller has a cornerstone recruit who can help attract more top 20 talent in the 2017 class.

It's a matter of when, not if, Miller gets the Wildcats to the Final Four.

Ayton just might be his ticket.