No. 1 sophomore in absentia

Knee injuries can strike any player, at any time, and Giles suffered a major setback this past summer.

Harry Giles is the best sophomore in the country, but at least for the next little while, you'll have to take our word for it.

Giles injured his knee in June while competing with USA Basketball's 16-under squad in Uruguay. This wasn't your everyday tear, either: ACL, MCL and meniscus. An injury of that magnitude requires surgery — which he successfully underwent in July — and down time of approximately one year.

In other words, he won't take the court during the 2013-14 campaign, and his status for the 2014 travel circuit remains at least somewhat tenuous as well.

But despite his impending absence, listing Giles at No. 1 remained a fairly easy decision. He'd demonstrated more than sufficient ability as a freshman to hold down the top spot, showcasing his terrific athleticism and skills for a 6-8 underclassman.

Elite college coaches agree. At the EYBL Hampton session in April, for example, Giles drew in-person evaluations from John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, among others.

What's most notable about that fact isn't that they watched him, but that they did so at the expense of their 2014 recruiting efforts. The spring live weekends are very compressed for coaches, and all three had significant work to accomplish with targets three years older. From that perspective, then, Giles' ability to command hall of famers becomes all the more impressive.

But none of this is to say he won't face a challenge. Our No. 2 sophomore, Josh Jackson, performed in supreme fashion in Las Vegas in late July. He, along with shotblocker extraordinaire Thon Maker, will make their own push to overtake him.

Giles' return will prove a challenge for scouts and coaches. His scholarship offers certainly won't evaporate, but how much time will he require upon his return to burn off the rust? The good news is that such a young athlete enjoys improved odds of regaining all of his prior athleticism, but even so Jackson and others will have utilized the downtime to enhance their own resumes.

First things first, of course, Giles must focus on his rehabilitation. And following the physical rehab, he'll have to regain mental comfort with making sharp cuts and absorbing lower body contact. And the bet here, for now, is that he'll return in vintage form and continue to carry the torch for the Class of 2016.

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