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#pounditFriday, January 21, 2022

Articles tagged: Deandre Ayton

DeAndre Ayton already growing close to Suns players

All signs point to Arizona center DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns, and we got more evidence of it on Wednesday.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough revealed that Ayton is already making friends with Phoenix players, and he intends to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals with a group of them Wednesday night.

Ayton himself made clear that he isn’t going to work out with any other team.

There had been a belief in NBA circles that Ayton would ultimately be the top pick. It looks like he’s more or less confirmed it himself.

Report: NBA personnel expect Suns to pick DeAndre Ayton No. 1

While mystery remains about the Phoenix Suns and their potential No. 1 overall selection, some NBA figures think they have it all figured out.

According to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, the belief around the NBA is that the Suns will ultimately select Arizona center DeAndre Ayton with the top pick in the draft, with no other player getting much in the way of thought.

The Suns have teased the possibility of trading the pick, but that looks to be increasingly unlikely. Ayton played at Arizona and thus is somewhat local, and the talented big makes a lot of sense as a top pick.

10 future lottery picks to watch in the NCAA Tournament

Michael Porter Jr

After weeks of speculation about which teams would squeak in and who would be left out, after Joe Lunardi frantically updated his Bracketology predictions dozens of times, the NCAA Tournament is finally here.

Aside from the shocking upsets, the dramatic buzzer-beaters, and the emergence of unlikely heroes, one of the best parts of the tournament each year is getting the opportunity to watch future lottery picks — many of whom will be one-and-done — compete with each other at the collegiate level. The 2017 tournament included Kansas’ Josh Jackson, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, among others.

The top 11 picks in the NBA’s 2017 draft were freshmen or international players, and nine of them played in the tournament. One (Gonzaga’s Zach Collins) made it all the way to the Final Four.

So, which future NBA players should you keep an eye on as the tourney gets underway? Which prospects could blossom into household names this March? Here are 10 future lottery picks to watch.

10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky

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10 players who could have big conference tournament performances

Bonzie Colson

Though several teams have already punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament, the bulk of the major conference tournaments will be played this week. That opens the door for a number of players to really put their stamp on the tournament they’re in. Those players could include ones who have something to prove or star players on team sthat desperately need a win or two to get themselves off the bubble.

Here are ten players who may be particularly motivated to put up strong showings in their conference tournament this week.

1) Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

Colson and his Notre Dame team both have a lot to prove. Colson missed 15 games with a broken foot, and it was a huge blow to the Irish. They went 6-9 without him, a sharp contrast to the 12-4 record they posted with him in the lineup. One of the nation’s best players, Colson needs to put in a big-time shift in the tournament to fully secure Notre Dame’s at-large spot. Right now, the Irish sit firmly on the bubble and need to win at least one game and probably two. Colson will be motivated to take them there.

2) Trae Young, Oklahoma

The Trae Young hype machine broke down somewhere around the start of the Big 12 campaign, and he went from Player of the Year favorite to a guy scrapping to secure his team’s spot in the NCAA Tournament. What better way to put an exclamation point on his season than a big performance in the Big 12 tournament? Young can take over any game but struggled down the stretch by his standards, averaging 18 points per game over his last four. It’s put-up or shut-up time for him.

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Did ESPN confuse Deandre Ayton with Brian Bowen in Miller report?

Sean Miller

A lot of holes have been poked into ESPN’s report that said Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap discussing paying Deandre Ayton to come to the University of Arizona. Now there is some speculation saying that ESPN confused Ayton for Brian Bowen in their report.

Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen said in an interview with Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station that he thinks ESPN got the players wrong.

“I don’t even think it was Deandre Ayton who was mentioned in that report,” Hansen said, via ArizonaSports.com. “I think it was (former Louisville commit) Brian Bowen. I think they got that wrong. I think there are so many (things) that ESPN screwed it up.

“I talked to someone yesterday — his name might rhyme with ‘look’ — and he said that it wasn’t Ayton at all. It was Brian Bowen.”

Hansen’s reference to “look” is about former Arizona assistant “Book” Richardson, who was fired after being part of the FBI arrests in September. Hansen clarified that he did not speak to Richardson, but someone close to him.

Furthering this suggestion is what 247 Sports reported on Monday. 247 Sports noted that ESPN changed the timeline of its report twice. They initially said the phone call between Miller and Christian Dawkins that was on a wiretap took place in the spring of 2017. Then they said spring of 2016. Then they said just 2016. Now they’ve gone back and said it was 2017.

247 Sports pointed out that Dawkins was also never really known to have a connection to Ayton.

However, Dawkins was known to be shopping Bowen to schools.

Yahoo’s Pat Forde reported the following in an article published on Feb. 23:

Dawkins ran the recruitment of Bowen, the decorated high school recruit who turned up in one of the U.S. Attorney’s criminal complaints as being allegedly sold to Louisville, via Adidas, for a six-figure payment.

Forde also reported that Dawkins was shopping Bowen to Arizona, and that Arizona was interested.

The FBI later said in its indictment that Bowen went to Louisville for $100,000, the revelation of which led to Rick Pitino’s firing. $100,000 is the amount of money ESPN says Miller was recorded on wiretap discussing with Dawkins for a player in 2017. Bowen committed to Louisville in 2017.

Now keep all this information in mind when you read this quote, which came from Miller during his press conference on Thursday:

“The only attempted corrections by the original source of the media statements are still inaccurate and completely false,” Miller said. “I also want you to know that the one time someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona, I did not agree to it. It never happened, and that player did not come to the University of Arizona.”

Hmm? The one time someone shopped a player to him, he did not agree to it, and that player did not go to Arizona? Yup, that seems to also coincide with the suggestion that the player in the ESPN report was Bowen, not Ayton.

Maybe this is exactly why Miller vehemently defended himself against ESPN’s allegations and why Arizona is allowing him to continue to coach.

Sean Miller vehemently denies ESPN allegations, will continue to coach Arizona

Sean Miller

Sean Miller spoke publicly on Thursday about the allegations he has faced, and he vehemently denied an ESPN report that said he discussed on a wiretap paying a player to come to Arizona.

Miller read from a prepared statement and made his stance quite clear.

“We do our very best to run a clean program at the University of Arizona. I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect or family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will,” Miller said.

He then got into the specifics of ESPN’s report, which said that Miller was caught on a wiretap talking about paying agent runner Christian Dawkins $100,000 to secure the commitment of Deandre Ayton to Arizona.

“Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona. In fact, I never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Ayton publicly announced he was coming to the school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory. … there was no such conversation.”

Not only is Miller proclaiming his innocence in the matter, but so is Ayton. An attorney for the star freshman’s family released a statement defending Ayton’s decision to attend Arizona, and said there were no payments.

Miller did not coach Arizona in the team’s game against Oregon last Saturday because of the ESPN allegations. However, Miller reportedly will coach the team on Thursday night against Stanford.

ESPN released its report about Miller on Friday. Since then, they have made a few corrections. They changed the timeline, initially reporting the phone call took place in the spring of 2017, then saying it occurred in the spring of 2016, and then saying it just happened in 2016. 247 Sports also reports that those recorded on wiretap were informed their conversations with Dawkins between June 19, 2017 and Sept. 25, 2017 were recorded. That wiretap timeline doesn’t seem to add up with Ayton, who signed with Arizona in late 2016. Additionally, many do not believe Dawkins ever had ties to Ayton.

ESPN is standing by its reporting, while Arizona seems to be standing by Miller for now.

Video of his statement is below:

Top 10 candidates for college basketball Player of the Year

Jalen Brunson

With college basketball’s season coming closer to a conclusion, major awards will soon follow. Players like Trae Young have electrified the sport on the court all season long, but the race for Player of the Year has definitely narrowed in recent weeks, and there are a number of strong candidates.

Here’s a look at 10 players who deserve to be in the discussion when it comes to the sport’s Player of the Year award.

1. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Villanova’s play of late certainly works in Brunson’s favor as far as Player of the Year consideration goes. The big part, though, is that Brunson can consistently do anything on a basketball court. He put up 22 points, five assists, and five rebounds in the team’s loss to Creighton, but that’s just demonstrative of what he can do. If you need Brunson to score, he can do it. If a teammate has the hotter hand, he’ll get out of the way and serve as the facilitator. He’s the best player on one of the nation’s best teams, and his play recently has begun to separate him. If you believe winning matters, Brunson is probably atop your list for the honor.

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Arizona defends handling of DeAndre Ayton’s eligibility

The University of Arizona is defending questions as to whether they cleared freshman star DeAndre Ayton to continue playing too quickly.

Ayton was named in an alleged wiretap that caught Arizona coach Sean Miller discussing six-figure sums surrounding the player’s recruitment. Arizona quickly deemed him eligible to continue playing, however, raising a few eyebrows.

Arizona outside counsel Paul Kelly defended the university in a statement, saying that they were confident that Ayton had not broken any rules at any point.

Ayton is clearly hoping to avoid scrutiny here, as evidenced by this statement released by his own family attorney. Arizona is now joining in as well, but there’s a long way to go before this investigation comes to any sort of conclusion.

DeAndre Ayton wants FBI, NCAA to clear his name

Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton’s lawyer is appealing to the FBI and NCAA to clear the young star’s name.

On behalf of Ayton’s family, the attorney claims that Ayton told the FBI months ago that no payments were ever solicited, and that Ayton’s commitment to Arizona was based on basketball reasons.

It’s tough to put this together with Ayton’s coach allegedly being caught on a wiretap talking about getting him paid. That said, the school has kept the freshman big man available and will do so going forward, so perhaps they believe there’s reason to believe he never failed to comply with NCAA rules.

Oregon fans troll Arizona with fake $100K check to Deandre Ayton

Oregon fans check

You knew as soon as the report leaked about Arizona coach Sean Miller being caught on wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure recruit Deandre Ayton, fans would be all over the Wildcats. And that was the case on Saturday night in Eugene.

Oregon Ducks fans came well prepared to taunt Ayton. Some fans were even shown on TV by ESPN holding up a sign resembling a check. The check was made out to Ayton for $100,000 and had Miller’s name in the signature area.

On top of that, another fan was carrying an oversized 100 Grand bar.

The Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe reports that Ayton was booed when he touched the ball early in the game. Pascoe also says other signs in the crowd called Arizona “U of Pay.” Oregon fans were well prepared.

In the face of the accusations, an attorney for Ayton’s family released a statement Saturday night saying that Ayton told the FBI six months ago that he never discussed payments with anyone. The statement also said Ayton attended Arizona because of his family ties to Phoenix.

It’s all fun and games until it’s your program under the microscope. From the sounds of things, many more programs need to be worried.