On July 31, 2017, Arizona gathered at the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium, the practice court decorated with giant photos of the program's former stars who've made a combined $1.25 billion in the NBA. Sean Miller's team stood there among the school's immortals and prepared for an exhibition trip to Spain. The games would serve as the first taste of organized competition for a squad that added a collection of young talent, including 7-foot-1, 260-pound freshman center Deandre Ayton, a Wooden Award contender, a projected top-three pick in this summer's NBA draft and a likely All-American. On the first three-man weave drill of the season, Ayton looked different. Different from every other player on the court. Perhaps different from any other amateur player in America. He had added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame during his first two months on campus -- he never lifted weights before college -- and he'd reduced his body fat percentage from 13 percent to 7 percent. "I'd been in the weight room before, but I never touched nothing," he said. "If I look at it, I'm like, 'Dwight Howard can't shoot.' I didn't want to be stiff like him." In that early practice, he caught an alley-oop from Allonzo Trier that peaked somewhere near the summit of nearby Mount Lemmon. Still, he snatched the ball in midair and dunked with a force that silenced the gym. He seemed comfortable dribbling on a fast break. He made a couple of 3-pointers, and he spun off the block like a cyclone, swift but powerful. He was a big man with the strides of a triple jumper, moving toward the lane and using his imagination once he arrived.
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Deandre Ayton is not afraid to be the next big thing
ESPN | Jan 11