Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton has been saying for years he’s working on his handles, but rarely has put it on the deck in his five NBA seasons.
Then came Monday night in Argentina.
Playing for Team Bahamas in an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament, Ayton drove right from the 3-point line past a defender, took two dribbles and finished on the other side of the rim one-handed against Cuba.
That was part of his 22-point, 10-rebound effort in leading the Bahamas to a 109-68 drumming of Cuba in pool play in Argentina.
Ayton’s new teammate, Eric Gordon, scored 17 points, hitting 4-of-7 from 3.
Pacers guard Buddy Hield went for a game-high 24 points. Hield, Gordon and Ayton nearly outscored Cuba by themselves in racking up 63 total points.
The Bahamas will have a much tougher test Wednesday against Argentina in pool play, but opened the pre-qualifying tournament with Ayton shooting 10-of-14 from the field and showing some ball handling skills.
In the first quarter, Ayton drove from the top of the key for a one-handed dunk.
Granted it wasn’t against NBA competition, but that first-quarter drive and the fourth-quarter move and finish were two plays Ayton hasn’t made in the NBA.
Gordon showed the ability to catch-and-shoot from 3 multiple times, but also scored off the dribble as well as found Ayton for a two-handed dunk on a drive-and-draw play.
The games can be seen on www.courtside1891.basketball, but there is a $19.99 fee to watch all the games available that includes pre-qualifying tournaments, 2023 World Cup and FIBA action.
The Bahamas are looking to win the Olympic pre-qualifying tournament to advance to next year’s FIBA Olympic qualifying tournaments July 2-7, 2024 with the winners of those tournaments earning a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns big Deandre Ayton posts 22 and 10 in leading Team Bahamas past Cuba