Cameron Ayers was born into a basketball family.
He got to watch the likes of Allen Iverson and Dwight Howard up close, getting exposed to a high level of basketball right from the beginning.
And he wasn’t just watching them on TV.
His father, Randy Ayers, spent 1997-2003 and 2009-10 as an assistant coach for the Sixers (and head coach briefly in 2003-04), so Cameron got to see the Sixers turn themselves from a bottom feeder in the Eastern Conference to an NBA Finals team in 2000-01.
“I maybe started playing when I was about 5,” Cameron Ayers said. “My older brother also played, so it was just a basketball family. A lot of dinner and lunch conversations around basketball and different things like that, talking about basketball every day.”
This connection to his dad allowed him to interact with NBA superstars early on, a valuable experience many basketball players never get.
“[The coolest experience] was probably either talking to Allen Iverson or Chris Paul, just to try to pick their brains,” Ayers said. “They’re superstars, and just how they go about it different ways [was interesting].”
Meanwhile, Ayers was in the process of building his own basketball career. A Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, native and Germantown Academy graduate, he eventually went to play college at Bucknell University. Ayers said he’s lived just outside of Philadelphia since he was 6½ and lived there up through high school.
From there, he made an immediate impact for the Bison, culminating in a Patriot League Player of the Year award his senior year. He was in good company winning the award, as the last Bucknell player to win the award was Mike Muscala, who has played for the Atlanta Hawks since 2014.
While having an NBA coach as a father could be intimidating to some, Ayers saw it as an opportunity and a privilege.
“He knows how to separate coach and dad, which is really cool,” he said. “He’d always give me a lot of pointers when I was growing up. He let me work out with the [Sixers] a couple times, so it was really cool. He was kind of like my own personal coach.”
Randy, who has over 30 years of college and NBA coaching experience, saw his son play Sunday at The Basketball Tournament (TBT) at Philadelphia University. Cameron was grateful for that, saying his father always tries to watch him play.
“Wherever he is, I know he’s watching from somewhere," he said. "I saw him up in the stands earlier. I give him a little look sometimes, but it was a great experience him being a coach for sure.”
Cameron played for the PA RoadWarriors in TBT this year, a team made up of mostly Bucknell alumni. The team made it to the second round of the tournament, falling just short to The Untouchables, a Pittsburgh alumni team.
Randy picked a good game to see his son play. Trailing by as much as 17, Bucknell climbed back into the game and eventually tied it at 72 with 1:24 left in regulation with a three-pointer from Ayers. With Bucknell down one later on, Ayers hit another three with 2.9 seconds left, which seemed like it would be the game-winner.
However, The Untouchables hit a buzzer beater to tie the game and eventually came away with a 90-88 win in overtime. The loss in no way diminished Ayers’ effort; he finished with 28 points and five rebounds.
John Griffin, who coached the RoadWarriors and is entering his second year as an assistant at Bucknell, didn’t get to coach Ayers while he was with the Bison, but said he’s known Ayers for a long time because he played with his brother, Ryan, in Philadelphia.
“That’s [the performance] we expected, we’re going to live and die with Cameron and Charles [Lee] shooting, we were going to live and die whether he made shots or not,” Griffin said. “They have the ability to take it from A to Z pretty quickly.”
Now Ayers is playing professionally, coming off a season in Lithuania with Šiauliai. He said his main goal is to continue to play overseas in Europe, but he hasn’t ruled out an eventual return to the D-League, where he played for a bit with the Reno Big Horns in 2015.
"Hopefully in a week or two I'll find out where I'm going, just back to Europe, hopefully on the western side of things," Ayers said. "Maybe Germany, Italy, Spain, France, something like that."