HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- Quade Green committed to Kentucky over Syracuse on November 19.
Three days later, Syracuse offered 2018 guard Eric Ayala.
On the surface, those two moves appeared to be unrelated -- but it’s starting to become a little clearer.
Ayala, a four-star Delaware native who attends Putnam Science Academy (Connecticut), was originally a member of the 2017 class -- but reclassified to 2018. With schools like Syracuse and Indiana in need of a point guard for next year, Ayala is now exploring the possibility of moving back to his original class.
“I’m open to anything right now,” Ayala said over the weekend at the National High School Hoops Festival. “I’m not sure what I really want to do. If it was an opportunity and a good situation, I would consider ‘17.”
Syracuse hasn’t had an effective true point guard on its roster since 2014, when Tyler Ennis helped lead the Orange to 28 wins before leaving for the NBA Draft after his freshman season. Freshman Kaleb Joseph was thrust into the role in 2015, but struggled and eventually transferred to Creighton. Last season, seniors Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije split the backcourt duties -- and while both played very well, both were more comfortable as scorers. Sophomore Franklin Howard, Colorado State transfer John Gillon and freshman Tyus Battle are handling the point guard responsibilities this season, but none are in the Ennis, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche mold.
Jim Boeheim and his staff went out in the 2017 class knowing they needed a point guard, but once Green (No. 22) seemed Syracuse-bound, they backed off Matt Coleman (No. 27) and started too late on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 44), who decommitted from Florida in October.
“They weren’t recruiting point guards as much, when [Green] didn’t commit there, that’s when they started opening up recruiting,” Ayala said. “Me and [Gerry McNamara], their assistant coach, we always had a relationship. When the Quade thing happened, it was like that. We already had the connection.
“They need another guard to come in and fill in. Tyler Ennis, that main ball-handler role. Being able to contribute, come in and get the ball to the bigs and stuff like that. Just being able to play my game, in their offense.”
Ayala is hoping to take an unofficial visit to Syracuse in January, but the Orange aren’t the only ones involved.
Ayala listed Arizona, Texas, Louisville, Kansas, Connecticut, Villanova, Miami, Providence and Maryland over the weekend, and then Indiana extended an offer on Sunday. The Hoosiers missed out on Tremont Waters (No. 32) and Paul Scruggs (No. 28) at the point guard spot, and while Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk have played well in the early going, both players are juniors and will be gone after next season. Every school listed besides Arizona and Texas had at least one coach at the Hoops Festival over the weekend, and watched Ayala on Sunday.
Some of the aforementioned schools are recruiting him for 2017, some for 2018, and some for both classes.
“Just schools who need a guard in 17, those are the kind of schools that’s recruiting me right now,” Ayala said. “It’s pretty evident when you watch college basketball, you can see which teams need a guard to come in and help out.”
Ayala visited Maryland with his Putnam Science team twice in the last couple of weeks, and the Terrapins -- who could lose Melo Trimble after this season -- remain involved.
It’s still up in the air as to whether Ayala will move back to 2017, but he’s taking all the necessary steps to keep the option open. Ayala will take the SAT in January and the ACT in February.
“I’m on the road to graduate right now. All my work is being completed,” Ayala said. “Those are the two main factors: SAT scores and if I feel like I’m ready for that next step.”