PHOENIX — While the stars of tomorrow grab the headlines during the 2021 NBA draft, just a few years ago the Phoenix Suns took Deandre Ayton number one overall.
But before being drafted Ayton made a name for himself in high school at Hillcrest Prep in Gilbert.
"Oh, when Deandre was here. It was amazing. He took us to a different level," said school co-founder Nick Weaver.
The high school is specifically for students who want to pursue a career playing basketball.
"Our big thing is kids come here for exposure for basketball, and to give them scholarships," Weaver said.
During his two years at the school, Ayton received both. After graduating in 2017 he landed a basketball scholarship at the University of Arizona and the rest is history.
When asked what was it that makes Ayton special, Weaver said, "He's got a gift. He's got a gift of winning. He's a winner."
But he says while that gift is important, Ayton's real secret to success is that he put in the work.
"You could come to the gym at 11 at night and he was on the shooting gun shooting, getting shots up. It didn't happen by some wish, some luck. He worked for it. He made himself the player he is today," Weaver said. "He's just not a big guy that's athletic and moves around. He is skilled. Extremely skilled, and he worked at it."