Arizona lands top prospect in Class of 2017

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Deandre Ayton announced on Tuesday evening that he will be playing his college basketball for Arizona.

“I made Arizona home,” Ayton said on Sportscenter. “My mom and family can benefit from coming to my game. Coach Pasternack, Coach Miller, we really trust those guys and that program.”

He picked the Wildcats over Kentucky and Kansas, becoming the second member of Sean Miller’s 2017 recruiting class. Point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Arizona last month.

Ayton was long considered the best prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the rest of the field has caught up to Ayton in the minds of many recruiting analysts, he’s still ranked No. 1 by each of the four major ranking services.

If physical tools were all that mattered, this wouldn’t be a conversation. Ayton is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, range out to the three-point line and the kind of athleticism, mobility and dexterity that doesn’t seem possible with someone his size. When he puts it all together, he can totally dominate other elite big men; that’s precisely what he did at the Peach Jam this summer.

The bigger issue with Ayton, however, is his motor and whether or not he needs a reason to get it going. He’s developed a reputation for underperforming, for only showing up when he needs to respond to a challenge.

And that’s not the only concern with Ayton, as there are still major question marks about whether or not he is going to be eligible to play college basketball. He transferred to Hillcrest Prep (Az.) — a school with NCAA question marks — from Balboa City HS (Ca.) — another program with NCAA question marks. He told NBCSports.com during Peach Jam that he is enrolled with a different online school than Hillcrest has been affiliated with in the past, and that he’s been in touch with the NCAA.

“I’ve been in contact with the NCAA,” Ayton said. “They’ve given me my classes. I’m doing summer school right now. They say I’m on track. I just have to finish these classes and I’m good.”

“There’s no overseas,” he added at the time. “I’m going to college.”

That’s notable, because the last elite high school prospect to make the prep-to-pros jump — Terrence Ferguson — did so after committing to Arizona.

Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike