Balboa City School (San Diego) basketball coach Zack Jones has been perplexed, to say the least, since when he learned that his star player DeAndre Ayton, a 7-1 center who is ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 60 for the Class of 2017, was transferring.
Ayton announced Tuesday that he was leaving Balboa to attend Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix). He will join 6-10 Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 overall player in the ESPN 25 for the Class of 2018, instantly giving the Bruins one of the country’s top teams.
When asked Thursday about the reason for Ayton’s departure, Jones told USA TODAY High School Sports, “That’s a really good question; I really don’t have an answer for that. I can’t speculate on it because I haven’t talked to him or his mom about it. All I know is that he’s already checked into a different school.”
Jones has not previously commented on Ayton’s departure. The school planned to release a statement later Thursday.
According to Jones, he and his team competed won the Oktoberfest Tournament in Germany from Sept. 16-23. When they returned, Ayton went to go stay with his mother who was visiting in San Diego. Ayton is from the Bahamas.
“I haven’t seen him since,” Jones said. “I think at that point is when they made some other decisions.”
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Jones, who also serves as the school’s executive director, has previously coached NBA players such as Washington Wizards shooting guard Jared Dudley and Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey.
He said the school’s ultimate goal is “turning these young boys into young men and allowing them to be leaders in their community.” That is why, according to Jones, Ayton lived with him for the past two years.
“We’re not bitter or anything like that,” Jones said. “I feel privileged to say that I had a hand in helping DeAndre develop to become the player and young man that he is today and I wish him nothing but the best. I want to see him win.”
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Ayton led Balboa to a 17-14 record in its inaugural season, averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. He racked up double-doubles in 21 of 22 regular season games.
This summer he pumped in 16.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game for Supreme Court AAU (Calif.) on the Under Armour circuit.
Ayton turned heads nationally last August when he dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels in an exhibition game in the Bahamas. Ayton dropped 17 points and snagged 18 rebounds in the 84-83 upset win. He was only 16.
“We’ll definitely miss DeAndre, everyone at the school loves him,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. We’re excited about the talented players we have here — guys like Jaylen Hands. We’re building a strong program here that’s based on strong academics, basketball and character and we’re moving on from this.”
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