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His teammates agree: Deandre Ayton should be the Suns’ No.1 pick

Arizona's Deandre Ayton (13) celebrate during the final seconds of their 84-78 victory over 3rd ranked Arizona State during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

PHOENIX – For guards Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, there is no debate: Deandre Ayton is the No. 1 player in the country and therefore should be the first name called by Commissioner Adam Silver at this month’s NBA Draft.

Of course, those two know better than most how dominant and effective Ayton can be with a basketball in his hands. They were both Ayton’s teammates last season at Arizona, and therefore had a first-hand account of the player many expect the Phoenix Suns to select on June 21.

“The case is made by what he did in the season. His body of work speaks for itself and his physical traits speak for itself,” Trier said Friday. “Great teammate, great guy to have. I enjoyed playing with. Special talent. He’s going to be a great player in this league for years to come. He definitely should be the No. 1 pick.”

Added Alkins, “It’s basically set. I think Deandre is probably the best player in this draft. He has the most potential. Phoenix Suns, I’m not going to tell them what to do but (pauses) Deandre Ayton.”

Alkins and Trier each spoke glowingly about Ayton following their pre-draft workout with the Suns, who once again had an all-guard workout on the practice court at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Alkins and Trier were joined by Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews, USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Wichita State’s Landry Shamet and Vancouver Island’s Usama Zaid.

Only Shamet is expected to be in play for the Suns at No. 16, the second of their two first-round draft picks. The others are all second-round hopefuls.

Since the season ended, Alkins said he’s been working on his shooting. He shot the ball OK at Arizona, but he knows it needs improvement, especially if he plans on sticking around the NBA for any length of time.

Defense, though, that’s where Alkins hopes to prove teams should take a chance on him.

“As a rookie it’s hard to come into the game thinking you’re going to take 20 shots a night so I’m coming in (to these workouts) with that defensive mentality,” he said.

The Suns have a pair of second-round picks, Nos. 31 and 59.

Alkins, who left Arizona after a sophomore campaign in which he earned Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention, and Trier both could be in consideration at 59, if not sooner by another team.

As a junior, Trier was named first-team all-conference and recognized as an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press. He averaged 18.1 points and was one of only three players in the nation to finish the regular season shooting better than 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3 and 85 percent from the free throw line.

During the pre-draft process, Trier wants to show teams he can do more than just put the ball in the basket.

“You still got to do what got you here and what’s your best trait is and that’s what I bring to a team. But, I think as well as my scoring, I make my teammates better by being a big threat, a big focus on offense and I can make plays for my teammates and make it easier on them and be a good ball handler, get my team in the offense and things like that,” he said.

The Ayton talk, however, took up most of the post-workout conversation with Alkins and Trier. That they were asked about their former teammate had to have been expected, and to their credit, neither seemed put off by the questions.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Both mentioned how great it would be to share the same court again with Ayton should the Suns make that a reality.

“We kind of talked about it a little bit,” Alkins said, referring to Ayton. “He’s just a joyful person. He’s the type of person when he sees like a vibe is like down or sad, he’ll try to pick it up. He’s always the same. He’s never any different. He’s always happy, even with everything that’s been going on, all the adversity; he’s always stayed the same.”

Alkins added Ayton wanted to attend Friday’s workout to show support for his fellow Wildcats, but the NBA allows prospects only two pre-draft visits with teams and therefore the decision was made for Ayton not to show up.

Still, the three are very good friends and speak often, mainly on FaceTime.

“It’s a bond I made with a friend and a teammate that will last for a lifetime,” Trier said. “I’m very happy for him. He’s going to be doing something special here soon.”

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