How Deandre and Andrea Ayton’s bond shaped the Suns star’s path

Deandre hugs his mother, Andrea, after being selected No. 1 overall by the Suns in the 2018 draft.

Suns vs. Mavericks: Complete Series Coverage

More races expected. Just like last minute packing. But the excitement in Andrea Ayton’s voice grew as she spoke of expecting something both familiar and unique.

The familiar? As she has done most of Deandre Ayton’s games, Andrea will attend Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) so she can watch her son play.

The special one? Deandre will play in front of his mom on Mother’s Day for the first time in his four-year NBA career.

“I think my presence there is very important,” Andrea told NBA.com. “I’m going to enjoy the game so much.”

Andrea also assumes she will enjoy the Mother’s Day celebration that will follow. She admitted uncertainty over how Deandre plans to honor her on Mother’s Day. But mused that her son “always had a plan.”

Whatever plans unfold, it seems likely that Deandre and Andrea will start and end Mother’s Day with a prayer, just like the mother-son duo did growing up in Nassau, Bahamas. At 23, Deandre continued the ritual with his mother as he became one of the NBA’s emerging young stars.

“That’s what really got us through every situation,” Andrea said. “Deandre gets a prayer from me every day, encouraging him when he’s on the road. This is what really brings us closer to all that we have been through with prayer and God.


How Deandre Ayton’s mother shaped him

Maybe this prayer helps Deandre in many ways on Mother’s Day. Maybe that inspires the Suns star to come out with a dominating performance to help Phoenix extend their series lead against Dallas. Maybe it reminds Deandre of the bond he cemented with his mother.

Long before Deandre became a promising young NBA player, his mother helped him stay grounded and feel empowered.

Deandre’s (Alvin) mother and stepfather forbade him from going to nearby playgrounds when he was a young child in hopes of keeping him safe. Instead, Alvin and Deandre built a hoop and set it up in the driveway outside their two-bedroom house so he could play with his two brothers (Edward Jr, Andrew) and his two sisters (Tiann, Serenity). Andrea signed Deandre up for a church youth basketball camp. And Andrea then enrolled Deandre in Jeff Rogers Basketball Camp, the Bahamas’ first summer basketball program, in hopes of advancing his skills.

At first, Deandre didn’t enjoy the experience. By age nine, he had already gone through a relative growth spurt and didn’t find much satisfaction in dominating against smaller kids. So much so that Andrea recalled Deandre lamenting, “Mom; I’m a big boy and I play with babies.

Andrea allowed Deandre to resign. That is until an 11-year-old Deandre struggled to fit his head under a door on his way to church. The pastor stopped his sermon and remarked to the congregation about Ayton, “He’s a walking miracle.”

After interpreting this moment as divine intervention, Andrea then intervened in hopes that Deandre would fulfill his prophecy. She encouraged Deandre to re-enroll in Jeff Rogers’ camp.

Deandre accepted and earned $100 after working with his stepfather as a plumber so he could pay for the camp. It has become a worthwhile investment.


From the streets of the Bahamas to the star of the NBA

At 12, Deandre showed both his size and his dunk skills against even older campers. Mychal Thompson, a former NBA center also born in the Bahamas, took notice. So have various basketball evaluators.

Deandre’s play attracted interest from prep schools in Texas and California. But Andrea found the possibilities in Texas unappealing due to the lack of foster families with a child Deandre’s age. And so he committed to Balboa City School in San Diego after finding a host family and winning a scholarship.

But soon after, Andrea became disappointed with Deandre’s time at Balboa City School. Although she politically declined to share details, Andrea acknowledged “a problem has arisen”.

“The gypsies told me to come get it, and let something happen,” Andrea said. “I tried to call and investigate, and I wasn’t getting anything concrete. They don’t say anything. They say everything was fine. So I went in there and tried to handle it fairly .

After struggling to find other schools in California, Deandre eventually transferred to Hillcrest Prep in Gilbert, Arizona for his junior season. During this time, Andrea moved to Phoenix and split her time there as well as the Bahamas. After leading Hillcrest Prep to a national championship during his senior season, Ayton earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona where he set a school record and PAC-12 for most double-doubles (25) as well. as conference player of the year honors.

Ayton was selected by the Suns as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Shortly after, Deandre bought a house from his mother.

“Deandre is full of surprises,” Andrea said. “When I got a nice house, our dreams came true. It was a blessing for the family.

Even with his NBA career underway, Andrea remains just as involved with his son. Rarely a day goes by without the devoted mother offering her son some words of wisdom. She described herself as a “nag” who “is always in his ear”.

Longtime friends and casual acquaintances often seek out Deandre for favors. So Andrea often tells her, “If your friends need help, help them. But you don’t have to gather everyone. Deandre played in a competitive field filled with mixed motivations among players, coaches and executives. She implored him: “If you do good, you do yourself good. And in Phoenix and on the road, Andrea often joins her son in prayer.

“Only God can help us through some situations,” Andrea said. “That’s all I depend on. I have my children. I have my husband here. I have very close friends back home in the Bahamas. When situations happen, it’s my weapon. This is what we are fighting for. »

This mindset has helped Deandre navigate various speed bumps throughout his four-year career. Although the Suns remained intrigued by his talent, they conceded an initial learning curve with the NBA adaptation. Ayton faced a 25-game suspension to open the 2019-20 season for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program. And despite becoming a key reason for the Suns advancing to the NBA Finals last year, the Suns refused to grant him a maximum extension to open the 2021-22 season.

While Andrea didn’t share specifically how she guided Deandre through these different circumstances, the Suns did praise Deandre for his play and attitude. This partly reflects his mother’s touch.

“We are strong, praying people. When things like that happen, we pray. We hold our heads up high,” Andrea said. “We’re just waiting for the season to end and we’ll see what happens. But we are focused on basketball now until we reach where we are meant to reach. Whatever happens, we are happy.

It’s no surprise, then, that the mother-son duo seemed happiest when the two stood together on stage last December at an awards banquet. It was there that Deandre introduced his mother to the “My mother, my herofor her help with Helping Hands for Single Moms, a nonprofit in the valley that helps low-income mothers with college opportunities and financial aid. After hosting mothers and their children with lunch and gifts, Andrea plans to teach cooking classes with the organization.

“Andrea Ayton is my rock and my motivation,” Deandre said at the event. “She really helped me be the man I am today. And I wouldn’t be anywhere without her and God.

Deandre may be sharing a similar message with Andrea this Mother’s Day. Maybe Deandre makes Andrea laugh with the jokes and impersonations he often likes to share with her. And maybe the two are praying together as they often do.

“I’m happy with the man and the leader that Deandre has become,” Andrea said. “I am very proud of him. I am a proud mother and we are a proud family. We’ll just pray that he reaches the limit.

* * *

Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can email him herefind his archives here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.