by RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
DeAndre Ayton's debut as an Arizona Wildcat lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him the day he stepped foot on his Tucson campus.
The freshman forward dominated with 31 points and 10 rebounds in the Wildcats' 91-63 win over the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds Wednesday night at the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
He shot 13-16 from the field, 5-6 from the free throw line and added two blocked shots in just 24 minutes.
Ayton's first basket was a fast-break dunk and although he has the ability to play on the wing with legitimate three-point range, he did most of his scoring in the paint in his debut.
"It felt amazing to finally go out there and use the stuff we have been working on the whole summer against other opponents. Coach Miller is big on throwing the ball in the post and going inside out," Ayton said. "He wants me to start inside out, so if they don't stop me from scoring inside there's no reason to change it up. I think we executed pretty well. We have to bring it every game no matter what people say about the competition we just have to do what we do."
The Wildcats led wire-to-wire and opened up a 20-point lead (32-12) with just about 10 minutes left to play in the first half. They took a 47-31 at the half and went on a 12-0 run early in the second to lead by as much as 27.
Ayton headlines a highly regarded recruiting class that has the Wildcats projected as one of the top offences in college basketball and the No.2 ranked team in the country.
The Wildcats' fanbase had an opportunity to hear of Ayton's impact during Arizona's foreign tour in August. He averaged 14 points and nine rebounds in two games against Cobinado Valenciano and the Mataro All-Stars.
"That was live, that was fun, I enjoy all of that," he said about the atmosphere of playing in front of the Wildcats fanbase for the first time at Olsen Court. "There's no pressure at all, I'm just having fun and I like it. I just want to represent the Bahamas as much as I can in a positive way."
Ayton is expected to fill the void in the frontcourt left by 2016 NBA Lottery Pick Lauri Markkanen and join potential All-Americans wings Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins to lead the Wildcats attack.
"DeAndre's performance speaks for itself. It's what we see every day. His intelligence, his hands, his awareness is not something you see often for a young big guy like him and he was obviously terrific," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "DeAndre is a special talent. He moves so easily that it's difficult to defend him. On defence, as he learns positioning, he'll get better, he'll be more of a rim protector. For us, it's taking advantage of his talent and making sure we get him the ball in scoring position. DeAndre around the rim, he's very good, he's a willing passer and a very good passer as well."
Arizona will host Chico State on Sunday, November 5, in its final exhibition contest.
They are scheduled to open up the regular season at home against Northern Arizona on November 10.