The most intriguing, discussed story line in college basketball recruiting right now: the agreed-upon top-rated prospect in the class of 2017 isn’t being courted by a number of blue blood programs.
This isn’t normal, not at all.
His name is DeAndre Ayton. He’s from the Bahamas, lives in Arizona, stands 6-foot-10 and is one of the more impressive physical players you’ll see for his age. Great athleticism, tremendous length, solid shooting ability, go-go motor. But if you check out his 247 profile page, you’ll see — though it is still kind of early — that the Crystal Ball forecast is already 100 percent for Kansas.
Schools like Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State aren’t in the mix at the moment. It’s strange. Even stranger: the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Kyle Tucker, among others, recently reported that Kansas is the only big school really pushing for Ayton. This is atypical, to say the least.
“Right now, it’s Kansas. That’s it,” Ayton said Friday night at the second stop on Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League spring circuit. “I’m only seeing Kansas right now. I don’t know (why). The word is I’m not going to college or something, but I say college is a must.”
Not long ago, Ayton’s top suitors included not only the Jayhawks but also fellow basketball bluebloods Kentucky and Duke. Both seem to have backed off lately.
“Kentucky, I think right now they’re mediocre with me in their interest,” he said. “It don’t matter to me. Whoever comes, comes. Look into it and figure something out. I really don’t care who ain’t recruiting me, to be honest. I’m just going to stay on top of my game and try to get better.”
This just doesn’t happen with top-five prospects. So why is it happening now?
For some colleges, Ayton’s reputation is one of some concern in regard to his college eligibility. (He attends Hillcrest Academy, in Phoenix.) But he’s been telling the media there’s nothing to be concerned with in regard to that, that his grades and coursework line up. He’s saying he wants to go to college and that his mother wants the same.
The other element: There could be some paradigm-shifting in play, as a player Ayton’s been compared to (in terms of situation, not his game/talents), Thon Maker, recently made the decision to bypass college and immediately declare for the NBA Draft. The NBA accepted his decision, which could be a game-changer. Maker’s college eligibility was considered iffier than Ayton’s currently is, however.
Is Ayton just playing it close to the vest and ultimatley planning on making a leap to the NBA? He’d possibly be able to qualify because of his age, going, like Maker, when he’s 19.
Here’s Ayton speaking to reporters after a recent game.
Kansas coach Bill Self isn’t complaining about this turn of events. If Ayton stays on this track and commits to college and is cleared to play, Self could potentially land his third No. 1 overall recruit in the past five classes, joining Andrew Wiggins in 2013 and Josh Jackson, who will play for KU next season.