Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)
Delaware has burst onto the high school basketball scene in recent years. Sanford School guard Eric Ayala has some of the most buzz of any player in the area.
In June, Ayala’s game took a larger stage than the first state’s as he joined Puerto Rico for the U16 FIBA Americas Championship.
The 6-foot-4 guard dazzled onlookers on the international stage, averaging over 19 points per game for Puerto Rico and competing head-to-head with some of the best young players from around the world. But, the transition of American high school basketball to FIBA rules and regulations isn’t easy for a teenager.
“It was a good experience,” Ayala said. “It was different basketball, it was a different game. I had to get adjusted to the court and the physicality of the game. It was a good experience overall.
“The three point line [was the biggest difference]. At first, at least playing in Chile, I didn’t really have the touch at first so then as we each got to play on the court longer I started to hit my shot.”
In addition to the smaller three-point arc, FIBA rules are faster. A 24-second shot clock sets the tempo high and mimics pro-style play compared to the long winded shot-clocks and slow offenses of some high school and college basketball.
“I was still new so I didn’t really understand some things,” Ayala said. “Like the 24-second shot clock it kind of got me sometimes.”
At Under Armour Camp in Charlotte, N.C., the first state was front and center when Ayala and Appoquinimink (Del.)’s Myles Cale went head to head in their first action of the day.
“Delaware has a lot of talent that nobody knows about,” Ayala said. “We don’t get the exposure that other states get...we’re here and we’ve got the better talent.”
A few weeks ago, Ayala, who holds an offer from the Red Storm, took a visit to St. John’s. The 2017 recruit was impressed by new head coach Chris Mullin.
“Straight up guy,” Ayala said of the former NBA star. “He gives it to you how it is. He doesn’t sugar coat anything...he told us how it was going to be and I like that about him.”
Ayala also holds offers from USC, Iona, Cincinnati, as well as Big 5 schools La Salle and Temple.
Transitioning to becoming a pure point guard is on Ayala’s mind this summer and he plans to play the one at the next level. He got off to a good start at Under Armour, with eight assists in his first game on Wednesday night.
“(I'm) proving that I play point guard,” he said. “I like playing point guard. I think I stood out playing point guard and that’s what I like to play. I would like to be known as a point guard than more as a two."
Last year, Sanford fell to Polytech in the semifinals of the Delaware State Tournament before Salesianum was eventually crowned as the state’s champion.
In 2015-16, however, Ayala believes it is time for him and teammate Mikey Dixon, another Division I-bound guard, to take home the state’s title.
“I like us winning it next year,” Ayala said.
CoBL's Josh Verlin contributed to this story