By: Eric Myers
The Maryland coaching staff first started showing interest in Eric Ayala early in the Delaware native’s well-traveled high school career and continuously stayed in the mix to receive Ayala’s commitment.
Ayala appreciated the coaching staff’s efforts, but it wasn’t until his mom’s reaction on his official visit in September 2017 that pushed him to finally commit to Mark Turgeon and the University of Maryland.
“When I came on my official visit, I just saw how lit up my mom’s face was throughout the whole visit,” Ayala said. “I’ve been away from her for the last three years, just being able to play in front of her was big.”
Maryland was the closest school to Ayala’s roots in Wilmington, Delaware, that he considered. His arrival on campus marked a permanent return to the area after spending his junior and senior seasons at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut and one post-graduate year at IMG Academy in Florida.
The experience of playing away from home helped prepare Ayala for the college experience, as did playing with other Division I prospects in high school and AAU play.
By not being the focal point of the offense, the 6-foot-5 guard honed his craft in both passing and scoring, which eventually led 247Sports to tab him as the No. 7 combo guard in the nation and No. 76 player overall.
That multidimensional ability to Ayala’s game will be an asset to Turgeon when the 8th-year head coach devises his rotation.
Turgeon will be afforded the opportunity to insert Ayala into the point guard spot to spell junior point guard Anthony Cowan, who led the Big Ten in minutes per game with 37. But Ayala and Cowan are also expected to see action on the court together this season.
“He’s developed a lot. Just playing with him, it gives me a chance to come off [handling] the ball,” Cowan said. “It’s always fun to be able to play with another point guard like that.”
Ayala’s play in preparation for the season has not only drawn good reviews from his teammates, but also from his head coach, who occupied the starting point guard position at Kansas as a freshman in 1983.
Turgeon raved about the freshman’s ability to develop as a leader and as a defender since he first stepped onto campus. The former point guard even lauded the freshman’s growth as a floor general and proclaimed him as the best passer on the roster.
“We knew we signed a good class but across the board, they’re all a little better than I thought. And Eric’s probably the leader of that pack,” Turgeon said.