Deandre Ayton hopes to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be a culmination of the work he's put into the game of basketball since arriving in the United States at the age of 12 from the Bahamas.
"Home, I was perfect," said Ayton. "I was home. I don't even want to talk about AAU. AAU was a bunch of s---. When I stepped foot in the United States, my life became a job."
Ayton moved to San Diego as a 6'5" 12-year-old and was 6'10" less than two years later. Ayton first landed on the radar of scouts at the 2011 Jeff Rodgers Camp in Nassau.
"It felt normal," Ayton says, "until I grew up and realized I never really had a childhood. It was just basketball and business. Never went to Disneyland or any of that. Kids used to tell me about it, and I'd have to lie and say, 'Yeah, I went.' But I never never knew any of that."
Ayton lived with three different host families over the next few years and spent most weekends traveling with the grassroots hoops circuit.
"There were a lot of issues going on," he says. "Sometimes I'd go a month without talking to my mother. You're [in the gym] going 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was like a job."
Ayton's mother moved to Phoenix when Deandre was 16.