By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
BAHAMIAN DeAndre Ayton, the top ranked high school basketball prospect, will lead a field of talented players coming to town this weekend to participate in the ‘Sands Between Your Toes’ Basketball Showcase.
The showcase, featuring six visiting high schools from the United States and four teams from the Bahamas, two out of New Providence and Grand Bahama each, is all set to be held on Friday and Saturday at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Kevin ‘KJ’ Johnson said this provides an unique opportunity for the public to see Ayton in action before he begins his journey to the next level at college where he has already signed to play for the Arizona Wildcats next year, turning down offers from the Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Maryland Terrapins and the San Diego State Aztecs.
“DeAndre always wanted to come home. I coached him when he was 14-15 in the summer time and he played with me in the Summer of Thunder when we beat North Carolina,” Johnson said. “That’s how we built the relationship.
“But he always wanted to come home before he goes to college. His people planned it along with me. I’m helping them out, making sure everything is organised on this end to bring him home to play before his people. He wants the Bahamian people to know who DeAndre Ayton is before he goes to college and hopefully by the grace of God, the NBA.”
While he’s the top ranked player going into college, Johnson said Ayton is already projected to be the next Ben Simmons going into the NBA draft.
“It’s just a projection, but his projection is huge when it comes to a Bahamian player coming back home to compete in front of his Bahamian people.”
Ayton, the 7-foot-0, 220-pound centre, will lead Hillcrest Prep out of Phoenix, Arizona when they take on the 22 Feet Academy in their first game 8pm Friday. They will play their second game on Saturday against The Conrad Academy at the same time.
The other two visiting high schools out of the United States are Victory Rock Prep and The Tech Academy.
“We want the Bahamian public to understand that this is going to be a high level high school basketball showcase,” Johnson said. “We want our Bahamian players to understand how important it is to play at this high level and if they want to play at this high level, they have to really train and put in the work.
“Definitely DeAndre is the feature and centre of attraction. We want to highlight what he is doing over there (in the United States), how good he is and everybody will get a chance to see just how good he is projected to be.”
While the six foreign schools will be matched against each other in the five match series on both days, the local teams from Grand Bahama and New Providence will square off against each other in the early game at 3:30pm and the feature game at 9:30pm.
“We know that we are probably not ready because the competition is keen and to play against one of those teams, you want to be able to play at a high level that these guys play at,” Johnson said.
“You’re talking about at least six of the top 15 players projected to go to the NBA coming here to play this weekend. I’m not saying we can’t compete, but at the same time, are we ready to compete at this level? I’m not knocking our teams, but it’s a totally different level right now.”
Johnson said it would be good for the local teams to get the exposure, but he admitted that it’s just not possible at this time, so the foreign teams will compete against each other and the local teams will be matched against each other.
The scheduled for this weekend’s showcase is as follows:
3:30pm - CC Sweeting vs St George’s
5pm - Victory Rock Prep vs
The Tech Academy
6:30 pm - The Conrad Academy vs
8pm - 22 Feet Academy vs
9:30pm - CI Gibson vs
Tabernacle Christian Academy
3:30pm - Tabernacle Christian Academy
vs CC Sweeting
5pm - Prolific Prep vs
Victory Rock Prep
6:30pm - The Tech Academy vs
22 Feet Academy
8pm - The Conrad Academy vs
9:30pm - CI Gibson vs
St George’s High