Minutes after his team was eliminated by Buffalo in what could be considered the biggest upset of the 2018 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament so far, Pac-12 Player of the Year Deandre Ayton doubled down on his decision to go pro.
Ayton openly admitted that he only wanted to play one season of collegiate basketball before arriving in Tucson last summer, and on Thursday, he confirmed he’s still heading down that path after his Wildcats were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Both Ayton and teammate Allonzo Trier, a junior, both declared for the 2018 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft, following an 89-68 loss to Buffalo.
Despite the disappointing finish to his first and only collegiate season, Ayton spoke positively about his time at Arizona and his collegiate experience.
“Playing on this team, I really had a chance to bond and go to war with some great guys,” Ayton said.
“From the managers to players, it is a great organization. Through high school and AAU, I never really bonded with my teammates like I did here.
“I still think about our trip to Spain in the preseason. That was what really broke the ice. Living with someone you don’t really know or being around a guy you might have heard about but never had the chance to meet. That’s when things began to click for us.
“As far as the final game, we ran into a tough team. They were really dogs out there, and the guards played a great game. Going down like this hurt. We really wanted to make history for the Widcats and their fans and unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Ayton is pegged to be a top-five pick in the draft, while Trier is projected as a second-round talent, however, his explosive scoring could catapult him into round one.
Ayton averaged 20 points, 11.6 rebounds and two blocks and registered 24 double-doubles this season. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds on 6-for-13 shooting from the field against Buffalo.