By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
WHEN the NBA preseason tips off, a matchup of Bahamian players will highlight the schedule right away to announce the 2018-19 season.
Deandre Ayton and Buddy Hield will have their first head-to-head game in the NBA when Ayton's Phoenix Suns host Hield's Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort and Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 1.
The Suns will play a five-game preseason schedule which tips off with three home games and concludes with two road contests.
Following the game against the Kings, the Suns will face the New Zealand Breakers of Australia's National Basketball League on Wednesday, October 3 and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, October 5.
The Suns' matchup against New Zealand marks the second consecutive year the club has hosted a team from the NBL, defeating the Brisbane Bullets 114-93 during the 2017 preseason.
The road slate is highlighted by a matchup against the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors on Monday, October 8.
For the Kings, they follow the matchup against the Suns with a back-to-back set at Los Angeles on Thursday, October 4 and in Seattle versus Golden State on Friday, October 5.
The Kings return to the Golden One Center in Sacramento for its preseason home opener versus Maccabi Haifa on Monday, October 8. It will be the third tie in four seasons they are set to face the Israeli powerhouse.
The Kings round out their home exhibition schedule when they host the Utah Jazz Thursday, October 11 and concludes with a matchup against the Portland Trailblazers on Friday, October 12.
Both players were recently at home and took the time to participate in charitable events and summer basketball camps.
Ayton made at appearance at the 31st Jeff Rodgers Basketball cam to interact with scores of enthusiastic campers eager to greet the No.1 overall pick from last June's NBA Draft.
"I remember being here, I knew nothing about the game then, but I was inspired by guys like Klay Thompson who came to the camp when I sat where you are now," Ayton said of his basketball journey, "I had no idea where basketball would take me, but I listened to everyone who was willing to teach me and I was dedicated to the craft. This camp gave me the first opportunity and I'm grateful for that. I just want you guys to be inspired as well and take advantage to every opportunity in front of you."
Ayton was discovered locally at the Jeff Rodgers camp in 2011, before he headed to Balboa City School in San Diego, California. He eventually transferred to Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.
Buddy Hield was back in Grand Bahama to host the fourth edition of his Summer Basketball Camp.
He hosted the three-day event simultaneously in Freeport and Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama.
"It's a blessing. As I plan the offseason I always plan to put this in my camp schedule. It's always important to be back home and to give back to the kids and the community. I know what it's like growing up here so being a role model for these kids, giving them a chance to learn something important, something they can take advantage it's a priority for me," Hield said, "I thank God every day for blessing me, being able to use my platform to show these kids what it takes to get to the next level. Hopefully, I can inspire a few to be the next ambassador of the Bahamas whether it's in basketball or some other field."
When the Suns selected Ayton with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, it represented a historic moment for Ayton, the franchise and The Bahamas.
With Ayton's selection, The Bahamas joined the United States, Canada, Nigeria and Australia as the only countries with multiple No 1 overall NBA draft picks.
It also represented the first No 1 pick made by the Suns in franchise history and the first No 1 pick from the University of Arizona.
He was the ninth consecutive college freshman to be selected with the first overall pick.
During his lone season at Arizona, Ayton led the NCAA with 24 double-doubles, a PAC-12 freshman record.
He averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while shooting 61.6 percent from the field, and was "Karl Malone Power Forward" of the year consensus First Team All-American.
Ayton was one of only four players in the nation to average the aforementioned double double. He was also Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, All-Defensive Team selection and Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament. The first player in conference history to win all awards.
Hield finished last season as the Kings second-leading scorer averaging 13.5 points (.446 field goal percentage, .431 three-point percentage, and 88 three throw percentage), 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.06 steals in 25.3 minutes per game. He started just 13 of his 80 appearances in his second season.