Kansas missed out on a third No. 1-rated basketball recruit in the last five years Tuesday as DeAndre Ayton picked Arizona over KU and Kentucky.
Ayton, a 7-foot, 250-pounder who attends Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, is the No. 1-rated high school player in the Class of 2017. Kansas landed this year’s No. 1 recruit, Josh Jackson, and also had Andrew Wiggins, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2013.
“I made Arizona home, going to Hillcrest Prep,” Ayton said. He showed off a T-shirt with the words “Bear Down Arizona” during the nationally-televised announcement on ESPN2, and his teammates were on hand for his announcement in his high school gym. “My mom and I — my family and I — can benefit from it by coming to my games.”
Ayton said he trusts the Arizona program as well as head coach Sean Miller and assistant Joe Pasternack.
“I know they can help me get to the next level,” Ayton said.
It’s long been speculated that Ayton, who is from Nassau, Bahamas, was leaning toward KU, though some had said Kentucky made inroads recently. Arizona emerged Tuesday as sort of a surprise.
“I was just ready to become a Wildcat,” Ayton told the Arizona Daily Star after his announcement. “I didn’t want to make too many dramas. I just like Sean Miller. He’s a hungry coach. He wants to win every game. I think he knows my style of play. I see his energy and hopefully I can step in there.”
Ayton attended the KU-Texas game on Jan. 23 in Allen Fieldhouse as part of an unofficial recruiting visit. A few hours after that Jayhawk victory, he scored 35 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked eight shots in Hillcrest’s 71-67 victory over Wichita’s Sunrise Christian Academy at Free State High’s gym.
He spoke glowingly of KU after that game, indicating he liked the way KU’s coaches developed NBA center Joel Embiid and set up forward Perry Ellis for buckets both inside and out.
As of last April, analysts believed only KU was actively recruiting Ayton, who some considered an academic risk. However, many other schools entered the mix this past summer, including Arizona.
In July, Ayton told Zagsblog.com he would definitely be attending college for a year, not heading overseas as had been speculated.
Ayton’s high school teammates broke out in applause during Tuesday’s broadcast when Ayton was asked if there was a chance he would play overseas.
“No. None at all,” Ayton responded, stating firmly that he’d be heading to Arizona for a year before turning pro.
KU has a minimum of three scholarships to give to members of the recruiting Class of 2017, and it could go as high as six if players turn pro.
The Jayhawks have received a commitment from guard Marcus Garrett, a 6-5 senior from Dallas Skyline.
Kansas still has 7-footer Udoka Azubuike on the roster in 2017-18, and it is recruiting several forwards, including No. 8-rated (by Rivals.com) Billy Preston, 6-9, from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.; No. 11 Brandon McCoy, 6-11, from San Diego Cathedral Catholic; No. 17 P.J. Washington, 6-7, from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.; No. 19 Nick Richards, 6-11, from The Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J.; and No. 34 Cody Riley, 6-7, from Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif.
Of that group, only Riley has so far scheduled an official visit to Kansas. KU’s coaches will join coaches from Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina State on Friday at Washington’s workout in Las Vegas, according to Zagsblog.com.
Garrett has moved up to No. 37 in Rivals.com’s national rankings, which were updated this week. He was No. 44 at the time he committed to KU.
Last weekend’s visitor, Chaundee Brown (6-5, First Academy, Orlando, Fla.) has moved to No. 39 in Rivals’ rankings from No. 64. Brown is down to KU, Wake Forest, Maryland and Florida.
KU’s coaches cannot comment on specific recruits until they sign letters of intent in accordance with NCAA rules.