Photo courtesy of Under Armour/Kelly Kline
By David Cordova
The state of Delaware is a very small place that doesn’t have a much of a following. It’s a state that is in between Pennsylvania and Maryland when you’re driving through I-95. In fact, the only professional team is the Delaware 87ers of the NBA G-League, which is the affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers.
But as of late, the Blue Hen State has been churning out plenty of prospects including A.J. English (Iona) and Trevor Cooney (Syracuse), both of whom are now playing pro basketball. On the college scene, there are players such as Mikey Dixon, a sophomore who will redshirt this year at St. John’s, Donte DiVincenzo, who will be a redshirt sophomore at Villanova and Duke’s incoming freshman guard Trevon Duval, a top-five player in the recent high school class of 2017 nationally.
Now on the high school scene, there’s another player that is making noise for Delaware. Eric Ayala has been one of the top players in the state since the start of his high school days. The 6-foot-5 guard from Wilmington, Delaware is a guard that is a slasher and has been known to score from many places on the court.
When asked what the basketball scene is like in Delaware, he said: “Nothing. For like me & Trevon, we’re kind of setting a standard for guys coming up in Delaware. Nobody really did what we’re doing right now as far as basketball-wise & all that, but we’re just trying to do something positive for these kids in the city. I can relate to a lot of the kids in the city, I see a lot of them, I live right in the city of Wilmington, so you know, just trying to show them, that there’s a different route you can take, there’s a different path you can go down, you don’t got to be a statistic, you can do something different.”
Ayala also compared Delaware to different basketball climates by saying, “Ain’t nobody do nothing by Delaware. You know you got different places like Chicago, New York. Ain’t nobody really made it from Delaware, so you know we’re trying to build a foundation for the kids and stuff like that.”
After starting his first couple of years at the Sanford School, a private school in Hockessin, Delaware, he decided to make the move to Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Connecticut, the home of a national powerhouse program, which produced players such as former Dayton guard Dayshon “Scoochie” Smith and Hamidou Diallo, who will start his freshman year at Kentucky. As a result of his transfer, Ayala reclassified into the Class of 2018, which means that this will be his post-graduate year.
“It was like I knew I needed to experience something else, you know, going up there was definitely a challenge, something I definitely wasn’t expecting, but it made me better as a person and a player,” said Ayala on transferring to Putnam Science, “You know, competing against high-level players in practice, it just brings the best out of you, working out every day, working out before school. It builds that work ethic in you, where, you don’t need nobody to tell you to work out in the gym, you could just do it on your own. Our gym is open 24/7, so I’m always in there every night. I feel like I benefitted so much from it, I don’t think I’d be in the position I’m in if I didn’t go to Putnam Science.”
On being part of the Putnam Science program: “I love it. They’re doing a great job. Coach Scraba and Coach Espinoza, they really care about the players. When we’re there, it’s not just about the basketball. They’re there off the court. Whenever we need something, we can always go to either one of our coaches. Still to this day, both of them still contact me and keep up with me.”
Another major program that Ayala has always been involved with is WE R 1, an AAU program based out of Delaware that is a major force on the Under Armour Association circuit. The program has produced countless Division I prospects and also pros such as former Providence forward Ben Bentil, now with the Boston Celtics and Derrick Jones of the Phoenix Suns, the athletic forward who participated in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend.
When asked what WE R 1 meant to him, he replied, “Everything. WE R 1 opened a lot of doors for me. And not just with basketball, they care about me off the court, they help me with a lot, my school supplies and stuff like that. They’ve given me a lot of life lessons and teach me a lot of things. We have a great coaching staff. They support me so well. They’re there when I’m on the court and off the court. When I’m at school, they reach out, it’s a family environment. It’s not like some of the other programs where it’s based on basketball. Some of them [WE R 1 coaches] also come to my other events, so it means a lot. It’s not just about basketball.”
This summer, WE R 1 steamrolled through the competition and finished with a 13-3 record and would win the UAA championship for the second year in a row, the first & only program to do so on the 17U level of that circuit.
When asked about being a part of history on the UAA circuit, Ayala replied, “I’m still kind of numb to it. It still don’t feel real. Nobody never won back to back. So you know, history was made. July 15th, 2017, history was made. To be a part of history, it’s a great feeling.”
As far as his recruitment, he replied, “Everybody’s involved. From Oregon, Arizona, Syracuse, Miami, Indiana. There’s a lot of schools involved right now. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. I’m just trying to finish up these last few events and hopefully get somewhere.”
Now, all that’s left for Ayala is to finish off his post-grad year at Putnam Science and then he’ll be off to whatever Division I program he chooses. Whatever school gets Ayala will be getting a great prospect that will net them a lot of points and will inherit a great asset.
When asked about what to expect from him in his final high school season, he said, “Just to work, to get better. That’s my goal every day, to be better than I was yesterday and hopefully to keep winning, to keep being the winner that I am and just keep going in the right direction.”
And also on his future, “I’d like to go to college and all that, have a great college career, whether it’s 1, 2, 3, 4 years. If God blesses me to go to the NBA, that’s a dream come true, but I know it ain’t going to be easy. I’ll continue to work everyday and just play the hand that I’m dealt with.”
Highlights of Eric Ayala:
Courtesy of JayDoe Films.
Courtesy of Hoop Major Media.
Courtesy of Brass City Films.
Courtesy of Highlight Sports Productions.
Courtesy of Mars Reel.
Courtesy of Rivals.com
Courtesy of Rivals.com