DeAndre Ayton is not ready to think about the end of his high school career at Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix) with several tournaments coming, but he understands the impact he’s made on building the basketball program into a national power.
“I hope people will know that one of the best players came through here and that I’ve left my mark with a goal to always be a role model,” he said. “Hillcrest Prep has helped me with the competitiveness that I can bring to Arizona and always knowing to play hard and not take plays off. Even when you think no one is watching, somebody always sees you.”
The 7-foot Ayton was again the focus of attention as he received his honorary jersey for the McDonald’s All American Game when the McDonald’s Hometown Heroes presented by American Family Insurance came to Hillcrest on Tuesday.
The McDonald’s game is March 29 in Chicago.
“It’s big (to be selected),” he said. “To be in among the names up there with guys like Michael Jordan is amazing. I just want to keep on going and make history for my nation and my family as well.”
Ayton, originally from the Bahamas, said he enjoyed that his family was able to attend the ceremony. “They enjoyed themselves,” he said, “and they took a lot of pictures.”
The McDonald’s game will be a chance for Ayton to reunite with a number of elite players who he has faced during the season and on the summer circuit.
“I want to out there and have fun and represent the West as best as we can as a team,” he said. “And I want to enjoy myself. I don’t want it to go by too fast and not rush anything.”
Ayton has long been considered the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017, although some recruiting services has moved toward Nathan Hale (Seattle) star Michael Porter Jr.
“I got used to it,” he said of the rankings. “I didn’t really pay attention to it or put it in my mind about being the No. 1 player. I just know I have a big chip on my shoulders at all times. People are always going to comeat me and I just need to be humble.
“Anything can shift on you. One day they love you, one day they hate you. I just have to be neutral and stay grounded.”
An Arizona signee, Ayton said he has not had a chance to attend many Wildcats games given Hillcrest’s travel schedule, but he plans to look at the team more closely in the next few weeks to get a better sense of “how the offense and defense works; how they handle certain possessions.”
But first, there is more to do at Hillcrest.
“We have a lot more games,” he said. “I haven’t really focused on what I’ve done or the accomplishments I’ve had. At some point, I’ll sit down and really think about it.”