Signature star: Gustavo Ayon, Real Madrid

May 07, 2019 by Print
Signature star: Gustavo Ayon, Real Madrid

Born in the small village of Zapotan, Mexico, Gustavo Ayon has become one of the most dominant centers in recent EuroLeague history while helping Real Madrid enjoy a new golden age. Ayon started his career by becoming a dominant force in Mexican basketball, winning consecutive Mexican League titles with Halcones de Xalapa before joining his first team in Europe, Spanish side Fuenlabrada. After a season on loan in the Spanish second and third divisions, Ayon returned to Fuenlabrada and was chosen as the Spanish League's best young player in the 2010-11 seasons. Ayon went on to play in the NBA before joining Real for the 2014-15 season.

Real had reached the Final Four without winning the title in each of the previous two seasons, and Ayon was the right signing at the right time – an excellent rebounder with outstanding footwork and great effectiveness in the paint. In his EuroLeague rookie season, Ayon helped Real win the title for the first time since 1995 as a solid contributor, averaging 8.1 points on 62.3% two-point shooting and 4.5 rebounds. Ayon was chosen to the All-EuroLeague Second Team in each of the next two seasons, although Real lost to Fenerbahce Istanbul in the 2016 playoffs and the 2017 semifinals. It all clicked again last season, when Ayon's double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds in the semifinals against CSKA Moscow was critical to sending Real forward to its 10th EuroLeague crown, won against Fenerbahce in the championship game.

Since his arrival in the 2014-15 season, Ayon ranks second in performance index rating per 40 minutes (27.0) among all EuroLeague players with at least 100 games played, trailing only CSKA superstar Nando De Colo (29.8). He also ranks second in rebounds (809), fifth in total performance index rating (1,999), and 19th in points (1,299) in that span – all despite playing less than 22 minutes per game.

In addition to two EuroLeague crowns, Ayon has also won three Spanish League and three Spanish Cup titles in five seasons with Real. He also led the Mexican national team to gold medals at the 2013 FIBA AmeriCup and the 2014 FIBA Centrobasket. This is his fourth Final Four appearance, and at age 34, Ayon is showing no signs of slowing down. On the contrary, he remains Real's main offensive reference under the basket. Ayon has gone a long way since he started playing basketball in Zapotan, and luckily for Real, he is far from being done.