Ayala, a Wilmington, Del., native, competed against center Moses Brown (Jamaica, N.Y.), one of the top big men in the class of 2018, in the Under Armour Association (UAA) the past two summers. Brown has long been recruited by the Terps and took an official visit to College Park last month. Brown took an official visit to Florida State Oct. 20-22 and will take an official visit to UCLA Oct. 27-29.
Maryland senior center Michal Cekovsky is set to graduate after this year, so Brown -- a mobile 7-footer who's rated 15th nationally on 24/7 Sports' composite rankings -- would fill a need. The Terps' 2018 recruiting class already is rated as one of the best in the country thanks to commitments from Ayala, five-star Baltimore forward Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joseph) and four-star North Carolina wing Aaron Wiggins.
"That's my key piece right there, Moses," Ayala said. “We played in the Under Armour circuit this summer, the past two years, so I know Moses. I'm definitely working on that. That's my No. 1 priority right now, getting Moses. … Somebody that I know that has my back if somebody gets past me, I know Moses is going to be there. Definitely need him."
Ayala also competed against Wiggins on the UAA circuit. Ayala's team, WeR1, defeated Wiggins' squad, Team Charlotte, 73-61, in the 17-and-under championship game in July. Ayala had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Wiggins had 11 points and three rebounds.
"I know that's sticking in his head right now," Ayala joked.
Wiggins and Smith were in College Park for
Ayala's official visit
, as were five-star guard targets Keldon Johnson and Devon Dotson. Dotson recently announced his commitment to Kansas, though Johnson could still be a major addition to the 2018 class.
As for Ayala, he said he was recruited by Terps head coach Mark Turgeon dating back to his days as a freshman and sophomore at Sanford School in Delaware, and had already been to College Park on multiple occasions before his official visit Sept. 29-Oct. 1. He already had a feel for the basketball program and school; the official visit was more about increasing his comfort level with the coaches and team.
Ayala said part of what he was looking for in a school was "just somewhere where I have the opportunity to come in and be able to step into a major role and be able to have that opportunity to play right away."
The 6-foot-5 Ayala is rated 76th on 24/7 Sports' composite rankings for the class of 2018. Ayala, who said he doesn't mind playing on the ball or off it, is a slick ball-handler and has the toughness and creativity necessary to consistently finish in traffic around the basket.
When discussing his other assets, Ayala said: "Just my versatility. I can guard one through four. I'm a physical guard, so if I get switched on a screen with a big man, it's no problem. I'm usually good with bumping big men. I personally think some of them are soft, so you just bump them one time and they're out of the picture. Just being versatile, being able to guard all guard spots, a wing and then probably a smaller forward."
Ayala spent his first two years of high school at Sanford, then his junior and senior years at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut. He's taking a post-graduate year at IMG Academy (Fla.) this year before enrolling at Maryland next year. Next fall will be the first time his mother, Brandy, gets a chance to watch a lot of his games since he was at Sanford. Wilmington, where she lives, is less than two hours away from College Park.
"I stayed two years [at Putnam] and it was tough for her to get to games and stuff," Ayala said. "She got to ones that she could. And then now I'm at IMG Academy in Florida, that's even farther. So me going to Maryland, that just gives her an opportunity to finally come see me play.
"When you're away for high school and stuff, it got a little weird after games not seeing no family members or nobody you could go to. You just go straight to your locker room or straight to your dorm. Now that I'll be able to see my mom and she'll be able to come see me play, it'll mean a lot."
For more from Ayala, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox