If you were to watch Jayson Tatum play from the vantage point of a bird's eye view, with no ability to discern height, the natural assumption would be that he's a guard. Probably even a shorter guard, in the 6-2 range.
But of course Tatum is far taller than that, at 6-7, and thus he projects as one of the most impressive size/skill players in the sophomore class. To illustrate how expansively he impacted the grassroots circuit last year, consider that, in the month of April alone, he generated five stories on our network.
Colleague Brian Snow summed up his April best:
"Putting Tatum in a position category is unfair to the kid as he does everything when on the court. He showed the vision of a point guard, the shot-making of a shooting guard, has the size of a wing and will rebound as well."
With every adjective scouts use to describe his game, there's either a stated or implied "for his size" that accompanies the praise. He shoots and handles it well enough to be a high-major guard, but at 6-7 with those talents he slots among the tops in the class.
Tatum ultimately could wind up No. 1. It's far too early to delve into mechanical breakdowns of Player A versus Player B, but in truth any of the top three — Tatum, Harry Giles or Thon Maker — appears to be an early frontrunner.
He has torn it up this season in St. Louis. Tatum is averaging more than 25 points per game and has created very high hopes locally that he can become the next superstar to emerge from the city. The Midwest has been red hot in recent years, and the No. 1 senior, Jahlil Okafor, resides in nearby Chicago.
Tatum's most impressive moments occur with the ball in his hands. He's highly coordinated, quick and balanced, and thus he's extremely difficult to defend off the dribble. His jump shot is capable to three-point range already, and his court vision and passing skills on the move are top-shelf as well.
Athletically, he's gifted if not categorized (at least yet) in the mega-athlete category, but he's so skilled and long it's easy not to notice. He certainly can finish above the rim and has so many ways to make a play — jumper, runner, slick pass or clever reverse layup — that his game doesn't require continuous burst.
Moreover, Tatum is already adept at changing speeds and slowing his momentum on a tack to create an angle for a high percentage shot or dish. His defense should improve with his experience, as he's plenty long and quick to defend opposing wings.
Kentucky, Florida (which has done well with other St. Louis Eagles over the years), Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina and many others have jumped in early and likely will remain on the job until he chooses or eliminates them.