By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER much speculation, Bahamian Deandre Ayton has made it official with a “one-and-done” college decision to enter the 2018 National Basketball Association draft in June.
The 19-year-old seven-foot, one-inch, 250-pound forward, who left the Bahamas at the age of 13 to attend high school, made the announcement to reporters on Thursday night following the number four seed Arizona Wildcats' shocking 89-68 loss to the Buffalo Bulls in Boise, Idaho to exit the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
"I just think it's the right thing to do," said Ayton after completing an impressive freshman season for the Wildcats. "I think it's the right thing to do, right now. I think I'm ready for the NBA. I just have to finish off school right and just work this summer and play for the draft."
When asked when he made the decision, Ayton said it was a year ago when he conferred with his parents, Alvin and Andrea Ayton.
"It was always out there. That was always my dream to go to the NBA," he said. "Me and my mom would always talk about it, so I would probably say in the summer in my senior year (in high school at Hillcreast Prep Academy) after the AAU."
Although he has contemplated this moment for a long time, Ayton said his final game with the Wildcats wasn't what he had anticipated. The Bulls shredded the Pac-12 champions' defence with their quickness and outside shooting to control the tempo of the South Region first round game.
"This was real tough, especially with these guys. I call them my brothers," Ayton said. "Going down like this really hurt. We thought we had this game, and we really wanted to make history for the Wildcats and, unfortunately, we didn't. This hurts. To be honest, it hurts."
During the game, Ayton tried to demand the ball on the inside as he got double teamed. But he was held to just 14 points with 13 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block shot in 38 minutes.
"From the jump, those guys were on us," Ayton said. "Their guard play on the defensive end was crazy; they attack you all the way. It's like they're going downhill on ball screens. It's just like they had a chip on their shoulder the whole game, and they really took advantage of us on the offensive end and the defensive end."
Bulls' forward Nick Perkins explained they were able to contain Ayton and eventually subdue the highly favoured Wildcats before the pro-Buffalo crowd.
“I think in the Pac-12 a lot, (Ayton) was getting a lot of easy catches, guys were just letting him catch the ball and he was just going to work,” Perkins said. “We fronted the post and made every shot hard for him. If he’s not scoring all them points, getting all them rebounds, it’s hard for them to win.”
Without the victory, Arizona's coach Sean Miller is now preparing to say goodbye to Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, all starting underclassmen, who have decided to enter the draft along with seniors Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic.
Ayton is already projected to be be one of the top three picks in the draft. If he goes with the first pick, he will become just the second Bahamian to be selected behind Mychal 'Sweet Bells' Thompson, the first foreign-born player taken in the 1978 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988.