Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"How Deandre Ayton survived treacherous hoops path to possibly become NBA's top pick"

North Carolina had stumbled into a potential recruiting coup, with a chance to make an impression on a prodigy. Yet after Williams and his staff did some homework on Ayton, the Tar Heels never seriously recruited him. “We had some reasons,” Williams said. “I don’t recall what they were.”


In the fall of 2015, Deandre Ayton and projected top-five draft pick Marvin Bagley III played together for Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix), an archetype of the overnight basketball powers that have popped up to dominate the high school basketball landscape the past decade. They spent about two months on the same team – dominating competition by combining for 60 points per game – before Bagley bolted for another high school in California. Their divergent paths from their time together in 2015 illustrates the difference between being sophisticated enough to exploit the grassroots basketball system, as opposed to being exploited by it.

Bagley’s father brokered a deal to run his own elite Nike AAU team and the family managed resources well enough to afford to live in a home that an Oregonian report valued between $750,000 and $1.5 million. It was quite a lifestyle upgrade. The Bagleys moved to California from a working-class area in Phoenix. They’d declared bankruptcy in 2008 with a reported combined income of less than $50,000 annually, the Oregonian reported.

Andrea Ayton, moving to a new country and knowing little about basketball, didn’t have the same savvy to manipulate grassroots basketball. Deandre’s path to the pros is littered with bungling handlers and opportunistic sneaker companies vying to control a prospect who couldn’t profit off his own ability.