Deandre Ayton spent a long day in New York hoping the day would eventually end. He was nervous, his hands were sweaty, he said. He wondered out loud, asking his mom if he was truly going to be the No. 1 pick.
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“But eventually my name was called first, and dream come true,” he told reporters covering the Suns and the 2018 draft.
He called the moment “mind-blowing.”
Still, if he thought it was a long day imagine how former teammates Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier and Dusan Ristic felt – their names were not called Thursday night. RealGM.com reported Trier has landed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks. Alkins has reportedly signed a training camp deal with Toronto late Thursday night.
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Ayton has proved he is worthy for most of the last few years, coming on the scene as a mid-teen and wowing with is physique and abilities. And yet he has a ceiling that remains so high.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “I’m going to have many more chapters to fill out. But the only thing that can really have me continue this exposure and this type of lifestyle is just hard work. I can’t stop now. The work has just begun.”
Now, he has become the Arizona basketball program’s first No. 1 draft pick surpassing Mike Bibby (1998) and Derrick Williams (2011) as No. 2 picks.
His former coach Sean Miller sat nearby when his name was called and each hugged when the big moment came.
“He just said, “I love you,” and (Ayton said) “I love you too, Coach,” Ayton said of the conversation. “We went through a lot, and I’m just happy he knows the type of work I put in. He knows I worked on my craft every day to get to this point.”
He’ll have to step it up to a new level, but he’s prepared to do that given his work ethic and ability. It’s still likely he hasn’t tapped into everything he has given he’s only 19 years old and still learning. He wants to get better, he wants to dominate. He also believed he’d be No. 1.
“This is a great blessing. I worked hard for this,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence because I knew I deserved this. There was stuff I went through to get to this point, and I’m just happy to be here and happy to be with the Phoenix Suns.”
He’ll return to the state which all but has adopted him. He played high school basketball for a couple of years in Phoenix and then moved 120 miles south to play for UA. He’ll return to Phoenix a very rich man, given he’s already signed a lucrative contract with Puma and is guaranteed millions of dollars as the No. 1 pick.
What his role will be with the Suns will be determined later, although he’s considered to be a once-in-a-generation player.
“I just want to come in and be the best teammate I can be, especially be the best two-way man coming in,” he said. “The game is changing a lot, but I just want to stick to the old-school big man, being down low and really trying to be dominant.”