By LARRY VAUGHT
DeAndre Ayton doesn’t know if he’ll play on an AAU team this summer or just pick certain elite camps to attend.
“I might figure out a team to play on. Right now I am still trying to win a national championship,” said Ayton, a 7-foot junior center for Hillcrest Academy in Arizona. “I am not worried about AAU or college right now.”
Kentucky is one of the schools Ayton is most interested in. He will be playing in nearby Murfreesboro, Tenn., the same weekend the Southeastern Conference Tournament is being held in nearby Nashville.
He did not start playing basketball until five years ago in the Bahamas when he talked his mother into letting him attend a basketball camp and even now those back home are “shocked” he’s turned into such a good player.
Here are a few thoughts he shared after playing in Pulaski County Sunday.
Question: Since you only started playing basketball five years ago, what sports did you play before then?
Ayton: “I played a lot of sports when I was in the Bahamas. I played soccer, little bit of softball, did a little track — high jumped. I don’t know if that is what made me better with my coordination with soccer and footwork on the court and playing lower post. I think that did get me better. I wasn’t really good in softball. My mom just put me in anything possible to keep me busy.”
Question: What made you decide to try basketball?
Ayton: “To be honest, I really don’t know. I didn’t really come over here to United States for basketball. It was really just for a good education and opportunity. Coaches started to see my potential and size. They wanted to train me and I just fell in love with it.”
Question: You have a lot of the same skills as Anthony Davis did when he came to UK, but he was a 5-11 point guard at one time. What about you?
Ayton: “I have always been tall. I never had growing pains. Anthony Davis is something special. To be a point guard and now have point guard skills, that’s crazy. He can put the ball on the floor, go by an opponent any time he wants. That is what I am trying to work on this year as well. I model my game after Anthony Davis, too.”
Question: How did you become such a good 3-point shooter already?
Ayton: “The coaches have great form. We have worked and put up a lot of shots off the dribble, spot up shooting. Every time we got in the gym we work on post moves and shooting every day.”