CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Scout.com's team of basketball recruiting analysts put their heads together in February with the goal of compiling one complete ranking of the best high school prospects in the country, regardless of age.
They called it the "Ultimate 100," and there was no question whose name would end up in the No. 1 spot.
"Honestly, we didn't really discuss it," said Evan Daniels, Scout.com director of recruiting. "It was, 'DeAndre Ayton is No. 1, and we'll move on.' It was pretty much unanimous. Ayton was the guy."
At the time, Ayton hadn't even completed his sophomore season.
Never miss a local story.
The list included senior standouts like Skal Labissiere, Jaylen Brown and Ben Simmons, all of whom will be contenders for All-America honors in college next season. It included the talented class of 2016 trio of Harry Giles, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum — all likely to be NBA lottery picks a couple of years from now.
And they all came in behind Ayton, a 7-footer who was born in the Bahamas, moved to California a few years ago and is now regarded by every major recruiting service as the No. 1 player in the class of 2017.
"DeAndre Ayton is the best prospect in high school basketball," Daniels said Thursday. "He's the type of center talent that you project to the NBA — and not just be an NBA player, but a really good NBA player and potentially a future all-star."
Ayton has size, length, athleticism and mobility. He can score in the post, he can knock down shots, he can rebound, he can pass and he can defend the rim.
All of that and more have been apparent this week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia.
In addition to his elite physical gifts, Ayton is a smart basketball player. He looks to create fast-break opportunities after a defensive rebound, and he knows when not to force it. He plays the angles on defense, and his awareness allows him to defend smaller opponents well away from the basket.
The little things that often get overlooked, Ayton does naturally.
"He's advanced in that regard and he clearly knows the game," Daniels said. "It's not just the physical attributes with him. He knows how to play. When he gets the ball on the block, he's looking, but he's also making quick, crisp moves. When he gets it in the high post, he's looking to dump it in or maybe even take a jump shot.
"He knows what he's doing on the court."
Of course, every college basketball coach in the country would love to have a player like that.
Ayton was at the airport a couple of days ago — preparing to travel to the Top 100 Camp — when he got a phone call from Kentucky Coach John Calipari.
"He just said he would love to have me at his school and he's giving me an official offer to the University of Kentucky," Ayton said. "It was a good feeling."
Ayton — who compared his game to Kevin Garnett's style of play during his first stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves — noted that Calipari has put quite a few big men in the NBA during his time at Kentucky.
He said that would be one of the main factors in his college decision, listing Duke, Kansas and Michigan State as a few other teams that have reached out recently.
As for that No. 1 ultimate ranking, Ayton said it's only the beginning.
"It means I'm doing a lot of work, and I've got a lot of work to be done," he said. "I just want to keep on going and accomplish my goal."