When young Jayson Tatum laced up his sneakers and stepped onto the floor for his first high school game this past season, he was maybe a little unsure of what to expect and what kind of an impact he would have on the basketball landscape in St. Louis, MO. Now, he may just be the best player in the entire 2016 class. Tatum, a Guard/Forward from Chaminade High School and the St. Louis Eagles 16U grassroots team, took time to talk with NY2LASPORTS.COM the other night with some scoop on what’s ahead of him right now.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF 2016 JAYSON TATUM AT THE 2013 NY2LA SPORTS SWISH 'N DISH TOURNAMENT
Jayson Tatum may not have been completely sure of what might happen as a freshman playing varsity right away, but he adjusted pretty quickly. The 6-7 180-pound player with a wide range of skills and abilities not often seen in a player so young, took little time to get used to the high school game and has captured the attention of several high major programs already. “It was something new, getting the experience it took a few games to get used to the physicality at that level and then I got used to it and the speed and all that.” Tatum averaged 13 ppg in his first year, adding on 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks per contest. Those numbers and his overall play throughout the season were enough to help him garner 1st Team All-Metro Catholic Conference honors, as well as Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
At the 2013 NY2LA Sports Swish ‘N Dish, we got a good early look at the freshman as he led his Eagles grassroots squad to the 16U championship, doing a bit of everything, scoring from multiple levels in a variety of ways, grabbing rebounds and getting his teammates quality looks as well. “Probably being very versatile, playing 1 to 4 and being able to create my own shot off the dribble and find open teammates,” Tatum said of his strengths. With his length and athleticism, Tatum handles the ball very wall and knows how to get good shots up and finish them with efficiency, but he admits there are certainly a couple things he needs to focus on improving. He imparts “Since I’m not the biggest guy, just trying to get bigger and get stronger... also more consistency on my three-point jump shot.”
As mentioned, the recruitment process has already kicked off for the blossoming star out of St. Louis. “It’s just a blessing, it’s really unbelievable how many schools are looking at me... I’m trying not to play too much attention to it until my junior year, but I’m just going to keep working and improving,” he said about being recruited already. However, it’s difficult to ignore the process when schools like Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Marquette, Memphis and Florida offered before the spring even kicked off. Since the start of the 2013 circuit, Tatum has also added offers from Saint Louis, and perennial power Kentucky, who Tatum said “it felt amazing... I couldn’t believe it and I’m just really thankful” after receiving the offer from the 2012 National Champs. Michigan State, Indiana and now North Carolina have also shown serious interest in the 6-7 freshman.
Tatum has had early opportunities to visit a few of the schools, going to Missouri, Memphis, Kansas and Saint Louis already. He provided some insight as to how each visit was...
Mizzou: “I’ve been to a couple games and Midnight Madness and I had a great time. They really treated me well seeing the games and the environment with the fans.”
Memphis: “I went to a practice and they play at the FedEx Forum which I thought was cool cause they get to see NBA players sometimes after practice and stuff.”
Kansas: “I really like Kansas, great school and lot of history behind them. Their fans, they have like 108 consecutive sold out games and I really liked going to the games and seeing how committed and wild the fans are at the games.”
Saint Louis: “Not as big of a school, but it was great to go see the coaches and players there.”
In addition to the visits he’s already taken, Tatum also plans on taking trips to Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois for visits this summer, in which he will likely meet the coaches and take a look at how they run practices, their style of play and try to get a feel for where they see him fitting in with their program down the road.
The talented freshman will take these next couple years to really see who he is comfortable with and which schools really stand out to him. “Me, my mom and my dad have talked about narrowing it down to my last school and making my decision before my last season of high school basketball starts,” Tatum said.
Though young and just trying to enjoy the game right now, Tatum is aware of his future and what he wants to accomplish coming up soon. “One of my main goals is becoming one of the best players, if not the best player in my grade by the time senior year rolls around and going into college.” The Class of 2016 is looking very promising, but Tatum may have a jumpstart on that top ranking as people are already taking notice and regarding the freshman very highly. As for accomplishing that goal, Jayson Tatum said simply, “Hard work and putting in the extra time in the gym.” He also hopes to make the USA team this summer, but does have letters from various camps, including the Elite 100 Camp that he would consider attending if the former does not pan out.
In capping off a look at who Jayson Tatum is and why he is so highly touted as a freshman phenom, Tatum quickly talked about how he hopes people see the way he thinks the game and let’s it come naturally to him. “Probably the way I think the game and how I play, just how I do things on the court.” The young man certainly does things well and the next few years promise to be exciting on the basketball scene.
He plays with the St. Louis Eagles during the grassroots travel season.
Note: Nick is a contributing editor for NY2LASPORTS.COM and 414HOOPS.COM. He is also the senior videographer for NY2LAHOOPS.TV. Follow Nick on Twitter @N_Aiello.
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