The recruiting experts have had a change of heart.
The 7-footer was previously ranked No. 3, but was shifted ahead of Michael Porter Jr. and Mohamed Bamba after further evaluation.
Ayton originally held the No. 1 spot until April, when he was moved down because of inconsistent effort and production.
“Despite all of that raw, natural talent, Ayton hasn’t always been trustworthy as a prospect. His effort was often times spotty during high school, AAU and camp events, plus he spent a lot more time fading off to the perimeter to showcase wing skills, rather than dominate the paint, which he had the ability to do when he wanted,” wrote Evan Daniels and Josh Gershon.
“But after examining and studying his situation further, we have reason to believe that Ayton is in the process of maturing as a prospect. The evaluation process didn't stop after we released rankings. We continued to re-evaluate our decision and came to the conclusion the player that we had ranked No. 1 for three straight years was the player that we felt most comfortable with at the end of the day.”
With that, Ayton becomes Arizona’s first No. 1-ranked recruit in the Sean Miller era —and Miller hasn’t exactly downplayed his expectations for the Bahamian in the upcoming season.
“I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, he’s one of these once in a generation types of players,” Miller said in November.
“The thing that is striking about DeAndre as a player is he is really smart. He has the know-how of how to play with four other players that not a lot of big guys don’t have. He can pass, he can step away from the basket, he can dribble the ball, he’s a skilled player. With 7-footers, with sometimes they play the game because they’re tall, but he loves the game. He’s obsessed with being a great player. Because of that, his future is obviously incredibly bright. We’re all looking forward to providing him an environment where he can grow, but also where he can give us and our team and the recruiting class that special player that can go inside and out.
“And I think the last part about DeAndre as a player is he’s got a nasty streak to him. He’s competitive, he wants to win, he fights in a good way, he battles. Whoever the experts are that have him potentially as the number one player in his class, that’s how we look at him. That’s how I look at him.”
Ayton is expected to start alongside Dusan Ristic in Arizona’s frontcourt in 2017-18.
Despite being moved up to No. 1 in Scout.com’s rankings, Ayton sits third in Rivals’ rankings and second in ESPN’s rankings.
Ayton is the centerpiece of an Arizona recruiting class that’s ranked third in the nation, according to 247Sports.
That class along with a strong group of returning players, including Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, is why Arizona is expected to be a top-five caliber team in 2017-18.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire