Metro boys prep athlete of the year Ayers is 'good at everything' - Albuquerque Journal

Metro boys prep athlete of the year Ayers is ‘good at everything’

Exodus Ayers is the Journal’s 2021-22 metro male Athlete of the Year, but don’t expect the La Cueva High multi-sport star to be spreading this information himself.

“He’s not arrogant at all,” La Cueva football coach Brandon Back said admiringly. “He’s a consummate competitor. He wants the victory more than the personal accolades.”

Ayers’ résumé has been significantly bulked up in the last nine months.

In football, 15 of the 41 passes he caught from Bears’ quarterback Aidan Armenta last fall went for touchdowns, an absurd rate of 36.5% of all his catches.

In basketball, Ayers averaged 16.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.4 steals.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Ayers was a Class 5A, first-team all-state selection in both sports as a junior, and if there is a list of senior multi-sport athletes to track closely in 2022-23, Ayers’ name should probably be at the top.

“I just like being in the game, feeling the moment,” Ayers, 17, said. “That moment, like when you feel pressure, being yourself and doing what you know you can do.”

Ayers already has been active this spring at football camps, including a lengthy stop in Oregon – he’s been out of state at camps for the last couple of weeks – where some of the country’s recognizable Division I names were in attendance, such as Oregon, Michigan and Texas.

“If you’re not putting yourself out there,” Ayers said, “you’re not gonna be seen.”

But as Ayers’ senior seasons at La Cueva approach, this open end remains: is his future in basketball or football?

“That’s a good question,” Ayers said. “Personally, I think there’s more opportunity in football, but right now, I’m just going with whatever I have a better opportunity in.”

His twin sister, Alexis, who is older by 3 minutes, isn’t quite in agreement.

“He’s good at everything, and he’s good at every position,” Alexis said. “But I think he’s better at basketball.”

It wouldn’t surprise La Cueva coach Brian Joyce, who has a couple of decades of college coaching experience, if Ayers’ niche at the next level occurs on the hardwood.

“He’s one of those unique players who has just a great feel for the game,” Joyce said. “He anticipates at a high level on both offense and defense, and that’s very rare for a kid his age.”

It is those attributes, Joyce said, in harmony with Ayers’ athleticism, length and movement, that create such a pronounced edge.

“He has all the natural ability,” Joyce added. “And he has the awareness, the IQ, the understanding, to be effective in either (sport). The biggest issue is him committing and really challenging himself to grow.”

New Mexico and Western New Mexico have offered him in football, Ayers said, although the number of offers is expected to rise this summer and fall.

“He’s talented enough to have the ball every play,” Back said.

Ayers was virtually uncoverable in the fall, and he is the latest in a recent string of stellar receivers at his school.

“He can stretch the field vertically, which everyone knows,” Back said. “But really, he’s one of the better receivers we’ve had in a while in his ability after the catch. He can turn a 5-yard slant into a 70-yard touchdown because of his difficulty in being tackled.”

Back acknowledges that it is actually his work on the basketball court that has perhaps served Ayers most notably as it relates to his lateral movement – and thus, his ability to create and elude in open space. Ayers’ 41 catches last season averaged 22.8 yards.

“I think he can do great things in this sport,” Back said, “because he is so good after the catch, and he’s (working) on his straight line speed. He is as dangerous on a 3-yard route as he is a 25-yard route.”

And Ayers is keen on football, it would seem.

“Immediately after basketball was over, he was texting us,” Back said. “He was, like, ‘Let’s go, I’m ready to get to work.’ ”

To that end, the COVID-19 pandemic proved somewhat beneficial to Ayers, as he and so many like him struggled to find ways to be useful and stay sharp and were ready to make up for lost time. The last La Cueva football season, he said, proved instructive.

“It’s really what opened my eyes,” Ayers said. “About getting stronger, getting physically ready, and all you have to do to be ready for the college football level. I can compete if I put the work in.”

And that, his sister said, won’t be a problem. Exodus devotes most of his spare time to his two sports.

“He just loves to do what he does best,” Alexis Ayers said. “And that’s football and basketball.”

About Exodus

Age: 17

Birthplace: Albuquerque

School: La Cueva, Class of 2023

Sports: Football, basketball

GPA: 3.4

Parents: Corley Ayers and Niesha Garrion

Siblings: Xavier Ayers, 28; Lawrence Willis, 23; Alexis, 17 (older twin)

Funny bone: Alexis says her brother always keeps the mood light with his sense of humor. “It just comes natural,” she said. “He just knows how to make people laugh.”

What might have been: Ayers actually lives in the Highland district but open-enrolled to La Cueva before he entered the ninth grade. His older siblings attended Albuquerque High; Xavier is a tattoo artist in Dallas.

Speed kills. And impresses: “He’s faster with the ball than most kids are without the ball,” Bears basketball coach Brian Joyce said.

Talking up NM: Ayers on the football talent level here, which has often come under fire: “We’ve got great talent in this state. It seems to be hidden. It’s a state where programs don’t know where they can get a steal from.”

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