But this year, Jayson Tatum became an anchor. Whatever other games percolated alongside his, fans and scouts alike gravitated in his direction. For good reason: Tatum has averaged 20 points per game in the league this year, and in Hampton he topped the 30-point mark in two of his four outings.
Tatum also averaged nine rebounds per game, extremely commendable for a wing. He warrants far more credit than he receives for his work on the backboards.
His rebounder work underscores his primary value as a player. Tatum doesn't just perform a variety of functions effectively, he truly excels at them. He's a wondrously coordinated and well-balanced transition scorer who finishes via a diverse set of options.
In addition to his scoring and conscientious efforts to rebound, he also rips away steals on a regular basis thanks to a high workrate and impressive intelligence. He averaged three steals per game in Hampton, a testament to his ability to rob an opponent of a possession and create a fast break going the other way.
His ballhandling and passing are elite for wing forward, and his scoring tools are vastly advanced compared to those of his peers. Tatum has three-point range and is even more effective from the middle areas, burying fadeaways and stepback jumpers that predict good fortune for him down the road in the NBA.
That said, if you toss Tatum into the ring with Harry Giles, Thon Maker and Josh Jackson and attempt to determine who's the best long-term prospect, Tatum would be the least athletic of the quartet. He's hardly deficient in terms of quickness or speed, but he lacks the explosive finishing qualities possessed by the others and doesn't run with the same bouncy stride.
Meanwhile, he also must become more efficient. Tatum's shooting percentages over the weekend were beneath his talent level: 8-19, 4-11, 12-20, 7-18. He doesn't create as many easy ones for himself as some of his blue-chip peers, and that's an area he'll need to address over the next 18 months before college.
But make no mistake: Tatum holds advantages of his own. He's the best handler of the four and arguably the best passer of the four, and he likely is the best jump shooter. He plays tall for his position yet possesses the skill level of an athlete much shorter than 6-7.
His recruitment exists in that rare air that includes nearly all of the blueblood programs, and thus discussing him in that context — when he doesn't appear to be in a rush — would be silly. He'll go whichever school he wants to go, whenever he decides to announce there.
Tatum will continue to be a mainstay in national conversations and, playing up a year in age with the 17-unders, already has established himself as one of the best players in the country, regardless of class.