Hornets unearthed international gem in Ayon

Thursday, May 10, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

When it comes to acquiring international players, the Hornets certainly do not have an extensive track record. In fact, of the franchise’s 40 all-time draft picks since the expansion year of 1988, the team has only selected one man who did not come from a U.S. college or high school (Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius, in 2006). So when Gustavo Ayon made his debut on New Year’s Day in Sacramento, it was not only a noteworthy night for Mexico – Ayon is just the third player from that nation to play in the NBA – but also for the Hornets.

As a former member of the San Antonio front office, New Orleans general manager Dell Demps vowed to improve the Hornets’ ability to unearth gems from around the globe when he took over in the summer of 2010. Ayon proved to be a quality find, appearing in 54 games as a rookie, including starting 24 times. Demps credited assistant GM Tim Connelly for helping scout Ayon and make the determination that the Hornets should sign the power forward, who’d been successful overseas in Venezuela and Spain. Additional quotes on Ayon that we couldn’t squeeze into his season-review article on Hornets.com:

On Ayon during the first half of the 2011-12 season:
“He’s been a surprise to everyone. His energy, his spirit and his game have helped us a ton this year. He’s gotten better over the long haul. He’s probably played more games than he is used to. I know he’s tired, but he’s showing our fans that he can compete, rebound and is a great passer. He works hard. He’s going to get better when he gets a consistent jump shot. We really like having him around.”

On what Ayon’s upside might be:
“It’s too early to tell. He’s got to do a lot of work and get better, but he’s shown the ability to work hard. He’s going to get better if he adds a jump shot and gets better defensively, but he’s got a bright future. He defends the ball, he can pass well and makes plays that you can’t create.”