You don't often see a talent like DeAndre Ayton come around.
How good is he you ask?
The 7-0, 235-pound center is not only the consensus top-ranked player in the Class of 2017, but has been the No. 1 high school prospect regardless of class dating back to early 2015 when Scout.com released their Scout Ultimate 100.
That ranking saw Ayton ranked at the top and ahead of guys like Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Michael Porter, Wendell Carter, Mohamed Bamba and Marvin Bagley. All of those guys were/will be ranked at or near the top of their respective classes, which spans four different years, not to mention several guys who will be No. 1 overall picks in NBA drafts.
But at one point, Ayton was considered the best of them. So when you've got guys like John Calipari, Coach K and other elite college coaches won't recruit you, the reddest of red flags shall be raised.
That's apparently the case with Ayton, who revealed Friday night that he's not hearing from UK.
"Kentucky, I think right now they’re mediocre with me in their interest," Ayton said Friday night at the Nike EYBL.
You may recall Ayton once saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of former Wildcat and NBA superstar Anthony Davis. That was just one of several signs that Ayton has been strongly interested in Kentucky and being the latest one-and-done star under John Calipari.
It's not just Calipari who's shown less interest in Ayton. UK, Duke and really any other college program outside of Kansas and noted risk-taker Bill Self have shown interest in this one-of-a-kind talent.
While Self has become one of the game's best coaches, even he'd probably admit to taking a lot of shots at guys with questionable backgrounds and even more questionable college eligibility, whether it's Josh Selby, Cheick Diallo or Cliff Alexander.
But Cal, K and other big-time coaches have become more hesitant to take these risks, as evidenced by both programs rarely having eligibility concerns with recruits (#FreeEnes). They're at the top of the game, and they'd rather take a lesser-ranked elite talent than the best guy(s) if they have eligibility concerns heading into college.
And as Ben Roberts writes, there's more than one major concern with Ayton going into college.
There have been rumors in recruiting circles that he plans to skip college and jump straight from high school to professional basketball. There have also been questions about his academic status.
Ayton said Friday night that neither of those concerns are legitimate.
"They think I’m not going (to college)," he said. "But I have to go to college. My mom wants me to go to college, and that’s what I’m looking for. … No eligibility concerns. I’m NCAA eligible, so I don’t know what the problem is."
In the past, Ayton has mentioned UK and Duke — along with Kansas — as the three schools at the top of his list, but it appears that neither the Wildcats nor Blue Devils are making him a priority at this point. UK Coach John Calipari was at the Nike event Friday night but concentrated on several other five-star prospects in the 2017 class. (Ayton will play three more games over the next two days of the event, so Calipari still has time to check him out).
Ayton seemed miffed by the lack of interest, but he insisted that there are no hard feelings and welcomed other schools to start recruiting him. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work on his game and attempt to hold on to the No. 1 spot in the class.
"I really don’t care who’s not recruiting me," he said. "I’m just going to stay on top of my game and try to be better."
If academics are the problem with Ayton, then there may be enough time between now and when his first semester of college would theoretically start (August of 2017) to get those in order. Then again, he may have already fallen so far behind there that he'd need a miracle just to get the required grades, a miracle that Kansas and Self are somewhat familiar with in the case of Darrell Arthur.
If playing overseas is the issue, it's hard to think programs like Duke and UK would have already soured on him as they've probably talked a few big-time recruits out of going overseas for a year and coming to college before going to the pros. I have a hard time believing they've already given up on trying to convince Ayton and/or his inner circle to play in college if he really does plan for a one-and-done overseas campaign.
So more than likely, there's another issue behind the scenes that's not made it into the public light. Perhaps it's best kept that way, and perhaps it's time to strike Ayton's name off UK and Duke's big boards for 2017.