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WELCOME BACK: Suns draft former Hillcrest Prep star Deandre Ayton with No. 1 pick

Posted at 4:38 PM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 20:33:01-04

In 1969, the Phoenix Suns lost a coin toss that cost them the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and, ultimately, Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Nearly half a century later, the Suns finally received their first-ever No. 1 draft pick -- and they fittingly used that pick to select a center they hope will alter the course of their franchise.

To no one's surprise, the Suns selected Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday. The 7-foot-1, 260-pound Ayton is originally from the Bahamas, and he went on to star at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and The University of Arizona.

SEE ALSO: 5 important things Suns fans should know about Deandre Ayton

FLASHBACK: Hillcrest Prep Star Deandre Ayton is the nation's No. 1 college recruit

“It means a lot to me because you know the fans out there are amazing -- they’re the best fans in the world,” Ayton told ESPN. “I’m really happy to be a part of the Phoenix Suns now and we can really start a winning legacy with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson and all those other guys. We’re a young team and we’re ready. I’m just happy to be a Phoenix Sun.”

“This is a historic day for the Phoenix Suns franchise,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said in a statement. “Deandre is a special player and we are thrilled to welcome him home to Phoenix. It is extremely rare for a player with his size, length and athleticism to be able to not only finish around the rim but also step away from the basket and make shots.

"At 7-1 and exceptionally strong, he is uniquely gifted with his hand-eye coordination and footwork. In addition, he has strong ties to this area and we can’t wait to see him in a Suns uniform.”

Ayton is considered by most experts to be the best player in this year's draft class. He has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famers David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon, six-time NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp and current 76ers star Joel Embiid, among others.

The 19-year-old Ayton averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game during his one and only season at Arizona. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and was a consensus first-team All-American, and he guided the Wildcats to the 2017-18 Pac-12 regular-season and tournament championships. He is the first No. 1 overall draft pick in Arizona Wildcats history.

The Suns, which had the NBA's worst record in 2017-18, hope Ayton will help lead the resurgence of a franchise that has failed to make the playoffs every year since 2010.