[CHICAGO]

Picture this…

You are a top high school basketball recruit in the country. In fact, let’s say that you are second out of the ESPN’s top 100 recruits in your class. On top of that, you will get a chance to play college ball in your home state, not to mention the praise and adulation that comes your way. 

This is the spot that Arizona commit, DeAndre Ayton, is in. The 7’0 centre, who played his high school ball at Hillcrest Prep, is basically on cloud 9. Yet, the one thing that is intriguing about this young man is his humility and respect for past greats. 

“KG, Olajuwon, David Robinson, dudes like that who work around the paint," Ayton said about the players he look up to. 

 It is expected to hear names like that, but Ayton Mentioned a current player in the NBA: “My current guy right now is Kristaps… there’s no fear in shooting the three and his face-up game.

This was really intriguing considering Ayton could have chosen to say a Westbrook or Harden or even a name like Davis or Cousins; Nope, he chose Porzingis. A player who is in a less than ideal situation on the New York Knicks. Ayton truly believes that he can learn from any center, and that where the humility comes from. 

When looking at those names, two things should jump out at a basketball fan searching for the next big thing in basketball. One, Ayton is a true student of the game (and that is almost certainly why he is considered a top 5 recruit in the United States). Secondly and most importantly, this is an indication of how DeAndre Ayton thinks and plays.

Ayton is a player who can shoot the basketball well but understands the post is his primary spot on the floor. He is a guy with a solid jumper but also has great footwork in the post for a guy of his size. Besides growing up watching guys like Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon, Ayton has another secret to his abilities.

“Work on [emulating great centers] every day," Ayton said. "Everything they have done, I try to replicate that...I try my best”

Again this shows the willingness to learn. That is something that Ayton understands is necessary and from listening to his routine it is something that he also practices. 

“I start my school work at 8:00 am, end at 1, start practice at 3:00 til 5:00. And after that I do workouts.”

DeAndre has already committed to Arizona, but he still has something to prove in this All-American game; his ‘face up’ game. 

“I want to show I can put the ball on the floor... and I can score all around.” 

At the end of the day, Ayton sees this opportunity as him being “blessed”. Ayton on the court is a guy that many people are going to turn their dial to see come March 29, 2017, however, off the court Ayton is a kid who has a good head on his shoulders. For Ayton, this is something that is especially essential. History is littered with high school basketball phenoms who were not mentally equipped to deal with the struggles of the NBA season. Ayton seems like he is in the right place mentally to one day rise above the obstacles that haunt a basketball player.

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