When the 2018 NBA draft begins Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it’s likely that it’ll kick off with the Phoenix Suns using the No. 1 overall pick on Deandre Ayton. The 7-foot, 240-pound Bahamas native was one of the most dominant physical forces in the country last season, averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for the Wildcats en route to Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, as well as recognition as a consensus First-Team All-American. His combination of size, strength, athleticism and offensive polish have made him perhaps the most coveted prospect in the draft class, an “anomaly” who, even in a class of remarkable and talented young athletes, “is the freakiest of them all.”
The former Arizona big man and newly minted Puma pitchman has size, skill and, evidently, personality to burn. So much so, in fact, that the self-described “entertainer” has allowed his joie de vivre to overflow into several different characters he likes to break out in conversation, in interviews, on the way to the gym … any time and any place it strikes him as funny, from the sound of it.
Allow Ayton to make the appropriate introductions. From a May cover story in SLAM magazine by Yaron Weitzman:
First there’s Josh. Josh’s voice is that of a generic white dude and he makes appearances when DeAndre is forced to do interviews. Josh has one purpose in life: to help the world see how fabulous a guy DeAndre is.
So there’s Josh, and then there’s Eric, whose voice, not surprisingly, is nearly identical to Josh’s. Eric is new and DeAndre is still trying to carve out his character. At the moment, it boils down to a collection of hobbies — like playing ‘NBA2K’ and ‘Fortnite,’ lots and lots of ‘Fortnite’ — which, coincidentally, DeAndre happens to share.
So there’s Josh and Eric. And then there’s Alejandro. Alejandro is DeAndre’s favorite of the trio. He’s been around the longest and appears most frequently. “If I don’t want to do something I have to, I’ll just make fun of it,” Ayton says. Certain questions “bring out Alejandro.”
More, from Shane Dale of ABC 15 in Arizona:
“If you’re someone who doesn’t like someone who has multiple personalities, then you shouldn’t draft Deandre Ayton,” [University of Arizona basketball radio commentator Jeff] Dean said during Wednesday’s Wildcat Country podcast on ABC15 and 1580 The Fanatic. “On the road trips, we didn’t get to see Deandre sometimes. There was somebody else in his place. Somebody else wearing his skin, wearing his face, wearing his gear.
“For instance, he would get on the airplane and he would introduce himself as Rodrigo to people: ‘Hello, I’m Rodrigo,’ and he would speak in a very broken Latin accent.”
When he wasn’t transforming into “Rodrigo,” Ayton would often portray a kindly middle-aged gentleman named “Josh” who enjoyed reminiscing about vacations with the family. […]
“[Josh] would say, ‘Hey, remember in 1987 when we went on that trip to Hawaii?'” Dean said.
And, most recently, from a Sunday feature by Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic:
Deandre Ayton walked onto the Arizona Wildcats’ charter flight and immediately was greeted by boosters and fans.
“Hey, Deandre, have a good weekend,” a booster said.
Ayton looked at him quizzically.
“I don’t know who you are talking about, this Deandre,” he said with a Spanish lilt. “I’m Alejandro.”
OK, so, when he gets bored or disenchanted, the 19-year-old blue-chipper likes to spice things up by deciding to take a few plays off and bringing out one of several characters he’s created for a bit of a chat. That in and of itself is a little bit odd, but not completely out of the ordinary; from Wilt to Walton to Shaq to Embiid, some of the best big dudes have always been a little bit weird.
The way that Ayton decided it was time to start getting his “SNL” audition material together, though, is what really kicks things up a notch, here. More from Bordow:
“When I was younger, I watched ‘Spider-Man,’ and they had the Green Goblin, and before the Green Goblin died, he told ‘Spider-Man’ that it wasn’t him, it was the Green Goblin that was killing all those people,” Ayton said. “I thought, ‘Hmm, I should try to change my personality sometimes when it comes to interviews.’”
Kind of rough that Deandre couldn’t hit us with the spoiler alert for the 16-year-old blockbuster from three Spider-Men ago, but, yep, that actually happened all the way back in the long, long ago of 2002:
So, there you have it. One of the most highly touted prospects in the 2018 NBA draft — right up there with EuroLeague sensation Luka Doncic in the eyes of most, and above him in the eyes of many — is viewed as a franchise-caliber center, a modern big man capable of changing an organization’s fortunes, and a special blend of touch and toughness … and, while working on his game over the course of his prep career, he’s also worked on at least four other personae, at least in part because of how Willem Dafoe nearly checkmated Tobey Maguire before ultimately meeting his Goblin Glider-delivered demise. Glad we got that all cleared up.
Reasonable people can disagree as to which prospect they think has the best chance of being a franchise player in this year’s draft class. After doing this research, though, I have to say that I’d go with Ayton at No. 1; after all, he’s the only one who’s a starting five unto himself. (Unless Luka’s been workshopping some sketch material over in Madrid, that is. Fingers crossed.)
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