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Ayree aiming to lead Wildcats to state tourney

by Tony Burns | February 16, 2021 at 6:00 a.m.

El Dorado got off to a slow start against a rugged schedule to start this basketball season. The Wildcats showed a mid-season resurgence and are in a race to the finish to earn a spot in the postseason.

Part of the reason for El Dorado’s improved play has been the enhanced performance of David Ayree, according to Coach Jimmy Porter.

“Ayree has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. He’s become more of a scoring threat,” said Porter. “Last year, a lot of his points were off offensive rebounds. This year, he’s a guy we can go into and feed him in the post, and he can make a play and score the ball, not just down-low but within 15 feet. He can get the ball outside the 3-point line and go off the bounce. He’s progressed his game on multiple levels.”

Ayree scored 17 points and hit 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats’ 58-55 win over Texarkana on Friday. That performance is a giant step forward from where he was at the start of the season.

“At the start of the year, he was pretty passive. He wasn’t as aggressive from a defensive standpoint and a rebounding standpoint,” said Porter. “At this point of the season, when Ayree is aggressive on the offensive and defensive end, it makes us a lot better. Multiple games are proof of that. (Friday’s) game, he got really aggressive on the boards. He was aggressive attacking the rim.”

Porter said Ayree’s clutch shooting at the line was the direct result of hard work.

“He’s been putting in a lot of time with his free throws recently,” he said. “Over the past five or six games, he’s struggled from the free throw line. So, he’s put some time in and it paid off.”

Ayree, when told of Porter’s assessment of his game, agreed.

“I think my game has improved since the season has started,” he said. “I have been working on finishing around the rim a lot after practice. I have also been working a lot on my footwork. One of the biggest reasons I feel I’ve gotten better is mainly my confidence. I’ve always had the talent, I just needed to believe in myself.”

The power forward has also tried to step up on and off the court for the Wildcats. Being a leader is important to him.

“My role on the team is to set an example for everyone around me,” he said. “That could be by giving 110 percent on the court or by keeping my grades solid in the classroom.”

Ayree, along with Jarmel Love, has given the Wildcats’ a presence in the paint. If he can show the same improvement in the off-season as he’s done during the season, his senior year could be special.

“I think he’s going to continue to grow from a shooting standpoint,” said Porter. “Right now, he’s about 15 feet and in. I think he’s going to work on his three ball, and I anticipate him being able to stretch the floor and knock down a three consistently going into next season.”

Ayree has plans for next season, including improving his ball handling and his shooting. But today he’s focused on leading El Dorado into the state tournament.

“My goal for this season is to make it to the playoffs and after that win state,” said Ayree. “In order for us to make it to state, we have to take everyday, every practice, every film session like it’s our last.”

If El Dorado can complete the final push to the postseason, Ayree’s play will be a large factor.

“Our season is far from over. He’s really dialed it up toward the end of the season. I’m excited to see how he continues to progress,” said Porter.

“When David is playing aggressive on both ends of the floor, we find ourselves winning a lot more games.”

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