By RENALDO DORSETT
WHEN Arizona won the DeAndre Ayton sweepstakes, it assured that the Battle 4 Atlantis will feature a Bahamian player for the fourth consecutive time.
The 2017 tournament field was announced in June and will feature Ayton’s Arizona Wildcats (PAC 12), Villanova Wildcats (Big East), Purdue Boliermakers (Big 10), North Carolina State Wolfpack (ACC), Tennessee Volunteers (SEC), SMU Mustangs (AAC), Western Kentucky Hilltopers (C-USA), and Northern Iowa Panthers (MVC).
This means Bahamians will get a first look at the top overall high school basketball prospect in America during what many expect to be his lone season of NCAA basketball.
Already touted as one of the top early season tournaments in NCAA basketball, this year’s tournament takes place at the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort, November 23-25.
The 2016 tournament includes the Michigan State Spartans, the Louisville Cardinals, the Wichita State Shockers, St John’s Red Storm, Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, Baylor Bears, LSU Tigers and Old Dominion Monarchs.
This year’s tournament will include Bahamian guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn who enters his senior season with the Spartans.
The 2016 field will also mark the second time the Cardinals will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis following their appearance in 2012. They fell to Duke in the tournament finale in Nassau but went on to win the NCAA national title.
The 2015 tournament featured a strong Bahamian presence with the Texas A and M Aggies’ Tavario Miller and Texas Longhorns’ Shaquille Cleare.
Buddy Hield of the Oklahoma Sooners and Wannah Bail of the UCLA Bruins became the first Bahamians to play in the tournament when they competed in 2014.
The tournament is staged at the 3,900-seat Imperial Arena, a ballroom converted to a basketball venue.
The event is televised live on ESPN and AXS TV. ESPN2 airs opening round games while ESPN airs the semi-finals, third place and championship games.
Ayton announced his decision to attend Arizona, in a press conference broadcasted live on ESPN’s Sportscenter Tuesday afternoon.
The No.1 recruit for the class of 2017, he chose Arizona over Kentucky and Kansas. He became the first top overall recruit to commit to a Pac-12 team since Kevin Love did so for UCLA.
The Arizona recruiting class for 2017 was listed at No.38 but since Ayton’s announcement has vaulted all the way to No.9.
The 7’0”, 235-pound high school basketball phenom, currently at Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, Arizona had a busy summer on the circuit which included stops on the Nike EYBL, Adidas Nations and for the Bahamian national team.
“I made Arizona home at Hillcrest Prep,” Ayton said during his announcement. “My mom, my family can benefit coming to my games. We really trust their program. I know they can help me get to the next level.”
During the course of the regular season, Ayton averaged 30 points, 19 rebounds and 5.7 blocks for Hillcrest.
On the competitive Nike EYBL Summer Circuit with California Supreme he averaged 19.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game this season. He concluded play at the EYBL Peach Jam where he averaged 21 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
At Adidas Nations, he averaged 17.4 points and 11 rebounds per game as his team went undefeated en route to a tournament title.
He also made his Bahamian national team debut with the men’s Centrobasket team that finished seventh in Panama.