Arizona Basketball

Miller on Ayton: He’s “a special talent”

Notes and quotes from Arizona’s one-sided 91-63 exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico all the while wondering if Deandre Ayton will miss no more than three shots a game this season.

Well, of course, he will but Wednesday night it was all but target practice for Arizona’s 7-foot imposing big man, who toyed with the Greyhounds all night. Let’s also remember ENMU had no player taller than 6-foot-8 with all looking like 5-10 in attempting to defend Arizona’s wunderkind.

(Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics)

The only thing that seemed to stop him – maybe some in McKale Center held their breath when he limped off the court with 7:15 left in the second half – were cramps in his leg.

“Twenty four minutes probably felt like 40 for him,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “He probably learned a few things tonight.”

Like drink plenty of fluids and, well, pace yourself, although it’s hard to when you’re so talented. In all the years of Arizona basketball there has been no player like him – a 7-footer, who can run, jump, shoot it from distance and dominate like that near the basket.

Miller called him “a special talent.”

Heck, his biggest decisions on Wednesday were should he dunk it or lay it in. BTW, he did each plenty of times.

“It was amazing,” Ayton said of being on the court facing someone other than his teammates. “I got to finally use my stuff that I’ve been working on the whole summer. And my team played great too. It all came together and we executed well. Playing in McKale with a full house was real. It was live. And it was fun. I enjoyed all that.”

It helps when you go 16 for 19 from the floor and totally dominate. He also pulled down 10 rebounds had a steal, two assists and two blocked shots.

“If he would have shot 20, he probably would have made 17,” Miller said.


“Deandre’s performance speaks for itself,” Miller said. “We see that pretty much every day. His intelligence and his awareness is something you don’t see often for a young big guy. He was obviously terrific.”

Emmanuel Akot was pretty good, too. He came to Arizona with a reputation of being a defensive-type who can fill in nicely while Rawle Alkins is out. Or at least be one of the guys. Wednesday he proved why. He went 4 for 4 from the floor, finishing with 10 points. Miller said they’ve been working on Akot to be more “offensive” because he’s more of a pass-first player.

“We need to take those open shots,” Miller said. “We also want him to rebound.”

When asked about his game and the label of being a mostly defensive player, Akot said, “I am extremely versatile and can play both ends of the floor. I am always playing to get my team a win.”

He did his part. So much so, Ayton raved about his fellow freshman.

“His defense is crazy, and (he) communicates,” Ayton said. “To me, he’s the team leader. He keeps everyone poised and talks to everyone.”

The entire freshman class will do their part. Alex Barcello filled in nicely for injured Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who was out with an ankle sprain. He played some valuable minutes (33) and scored seven points, grabbing two rebounds and having two assists.

“Alex is a tough kid,” Miller said. “He practices like T.J. McConnell. He’ll do nothing but get better and better.”
So will Brandon Randolph, who appeared to try to do too much Wednesday but when he didn’t he looked good doing it. Heck, ENMU coach Tres Segler singled him out by calling him “incredible.”

“He’s going to be really good,” Segler said.

Miller said what Randolph is “is not one dimensional.” He may have been 0-7 from the 3-point line but that’s “uncharacteristic” for him. He still scored 14 points, hitting five shots.

“It shows where we will be as we keep moving forward,” Miller said.

And all this young talent shows, Arizona has a lot to like in the coming months. It is, after all, just Nov. 1.

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