NBA Star DeAndre Ayton on Being Top 2018 Draft Pick, His Transition to the U.S. & Why He Loves Drake
Despite being asked to move mountains ahead of his rookie campaign, Phoenix Suns center, DeAndre Ayton, seems more than ready to shift the landscape of the NBA. With a feathery touch, nimble footwork and a high basketball IQ, Ayton bullied his way into being the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. During his only year at the collegiate level, the Arizona Bearcat decimated the opposition with staggering numbers, including 20 points per game along with 11 rebounds.
With a body type eerily similar to Zeus, it's no wonder scouts salivated over the 7'1" behemoth. Not only does Ayton's skill-level seem almost God-like, his bulletproof swagger is enough to flatten the ego of anyone who steps on the court with him. "When you're from the islands, that's that pride. You know, if you're trying to represent, you gotta represent the right way," Ayton told Billboard at the 2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on Sunday (Aug. 12).
As the clock continues to tick down to opening night, the Bahamian-bred star is hungry to truck his way into superstardom alongside sharpshooting guard Devin Booker. "The West is looking kind of stacked, but we're going to hold our end," Ayton confirmed.
Billboard spoke to this year's No. 1 pick about his draft day experience, transitioning to the states from the Bahamas, competing against LeBron James, and why Drake is his Rap MVP of 2018. Check it out below.
Even though it was a foregone conclusion that you were going to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, what was going through your mind when NBA Commissioner Adam Sliver officially called your name?
I expected him to call me, but I mean, it was like, "Yeah, finally!" But, I didn't know to be honest. I was just talking before. Earlier in college, people were talking, and I said, "Forget that. I'm going to be the number one draft pick." So, that's something to talk about and from there, it just got really big for me. I was like, "Oh ok. Let's get it."
This air of confidence you have, where did it come from?
That's that pride. When you're from the islands, that's that pride. You know, if you're trying to represent, you gotta represent the right way. That's all I know. I've been saying it before the lottery, before the Phoenix Suns even had the No. 1 pick. I've just been talking it into the existence. I'm not saying I'm the best player in the draft and trying to be cocky like that, but I was just saying I'm going to be the No. 1 pick, regardless. It's just that confidence by yourself and coming to the United States, trying to adapt to the competitive level, kids doubting your game, your accent is all jacked up, and all that stuff that fuels you and makes you want to kill it on the court.
What would you say was the hardest part of that transition with coming to the states from the Bahamas?
Man, most definitely just being around kids that were better than me. The jealousy started kicking in. It was like, "He can shoot? Well, I wanna shoot, too. I don't wanna be down here rebounding for this dude. I wanna dribble too." So I just stayed in the gym and just worked on my game and I started getting exposed to YouTube and being exposed to all the players and stuff, all the greats. I just wanted to take something from their games and put it in mine.
What would you say was the biggest lesson your learned during your time at Arizona?
I would probably say, man, my coach was always on me. He knows when I'm not playing right. He's like, "Yo. Everybody watching. You think nobody's watching? Everybody is watching." When you think you're showing effort and your body language is showing that, then you're really playing your best and then nobody will be able to talk bad about your game.
What letter grade would you give yourself based on your performance at summer league?
I would definitely say A-.
Because I was balling.
So you're not even going to give yourself an A? You're going to throw the minus in there?
I gotta put the A- because I didn't play quite well in the last game I played before we stopped playing. That game I didn't play good, so I'll give myself an A-.
You made some bold statements recently. You said you and Devin Booker are Shaq and Kobe 2.0.
Facts. Mind you, I'm saying this before everything is set. That's the confidence level.
Playoffs year one?
Wooooo! Man! The West is looking like WW3. So, yo, it's going to be challenging.
And LeBron just got over there.
Man, LeBron knows exactly what he's doing. He wants to see the Warriors. He's not trying to see them just one time.
Are you not a little bit scared of the Warriors, especially knowing they just brought in DeMarcus Cousins?
Boogie is a problem. I'm not even going to call him a unicorn, he's a big guard. It's a problem. Those teams? Teams like that are super teams. Like how do you have so many great players on one team? But this is the league, you gotta expect stuff like that. LeBron knows what he's doing. He wanted younger guys who can run all day and listen. The West is looking kind of stacked, but we're going to hold our end.
You and Marvin Bagley secured the bag with that PUMA deal. What was it about PUMA that made you decide to go over there?
I grew up wearing PUMA and our national team is sponsored by PUMA, so those were always in the store. We couldn't afford Nike or Jordan, so PUMA was our brand. If you were wearing PUMA, that's dope. With me coming to PUMA, I wanna start my own brand. You know, Nike has all the stars and the greats, but I said I wanted to go to PUMA and start my own thing, have my own shoe and I don't want want to be under nobody. If I'm the greatest, I'm gonna be there priority. I wanna start my own thing.
What would you say is your favorite album of 2018 and why?
Scorpion by Drake. Listen, that album is personal all the way from the start to where it hit me, son.
Which one hit you the hardest?
"Emotionless." Man, he spoke some real stuff. Not only that, but he was also exposing some females that be thinking they're all that and he was really putting himself out there, too. Like, "I jacked up too. Here go my faults right here." I respect what he did 110%.
Who would you say is the Rap MVP of 2018?
Most definitely Drake over everything. I love that man.