Harry Giles: Junior Primer

The final edition of the Carolina Challenge in 2013 ended an era within North Carolina, but that day introduced the talents of Harry Giles to a statewide audience for the first time.

How he got here

Dating back to his first appearances at camps in 2012, everyone knew Harry Giles would be something special. From his earliest events to performances with High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan his freshman season, the slender power forward was destined to reach that most hallowed status of prep basketball.

Giles commanded so much attention at a young age that, at a spring 2013 EYBL event in Virginia, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams all attended his 16-under team’s game on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m. With so many priorities to observe in the 2014 and 2015 classes, it was Giles who seized their time first that day.

Those three programs and many others made it clear immediately that Giles would be welcomed on their campuses with open arms, and in a scenario such as that, the recruitment becomes almost superfluous until that period when he begins to seriously determine a winner.

Giles’ injury was a setback, but he played through it and now looks dynamic

He earned the No. 1 ranking in the minds of many, but disaster struck during the 2013 summer. While touring the world with USA Basketball, Giles tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus, ending not only his travel season but also his entire sophomore campaign at Wesleyan. He was forced to watch idly while his 2016 peers began to carve out more time in the spotlight for themselves.

He returned to action in the 2014 spring, but not entirely successfully. Giles looked extremely gimpy upon his return to the court, and each time he took any contact to his recovering knee, everyone’s blood pressure spiked. Not only was his production sluggish, his confidence appeared to flag as well.

In eight regular season contests with CP3 on the 17-under EYBL circuit, Giles averaged just eight points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field. Those numbers were well off the mark for a player known for his impact and efficiency.

But he began to regain form by July. At the Peach Jam, Giles raised his averages to 13 points and seven rebounds per game while knocking down 50 percent of his shots.

He continued to build strength and belief in his repaired knee, and by the start of the 2014-15 season Giles was ready to shine.

He has been scintillating more often than not over the past four months. Wesleyan has competed against a challenging schedule, and Giles has been the talented club’s ringleader and, as times, savior.

The HSOT Invitational, held in December, put him face to face against fellow elite junior (now reclassed to 2015) Thon Maker. Wesleyan fell behind early but Giles led them storming back, lifting his and his teammates’ play to meet a formidable challenge and prevail in the end.

Back to recruiting, in early February he cut his list to eight schools: Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and UNLV.

To 2015. …

Giles will have a solid chance to retain hold of the No. 1 ranking if he continues to build on his junior season. Yes, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum pose a genuine threat, but Giles is the biggest of the three and a good big man typically beats a good smaller man.

He has grown from 6-7 early in his high school career to 6-10, 220 pounds. No longer wiry strong, he’s now just strong. He has adopted his style to suit his body, posting up aggressively and eagerly initiating contact while maintaining a rare balance and finesse for a big man.

Giles utilizes advanced footwork to release shots in traffic, and he already possesses a series of effective fakes. Thanks to long arms, his turnaround jump shot in and of itself looms as a career-long weapon.

He has great hands and finishes with top-shelf coordination around the basket. He also snatches rebounds effortlessly and doesn’t hesitate to use his body to shield off opposing big men.

But he’s hardly a throwback post player. Giles will duck inside for interior scoring, but he’s actually more impressive facing the rim and either launching long jump shots or putting the ball on the floor and creating off the dribble. He handles well going right or left and even has a crossover dribble to shake down opponents.

In all, his ability to score at multiple levels with such devastating promise explains why, at this moment, he holds down the No. 1 ranking.

For this year, then, here’s hoping he continues to carve out an identity. When Giles doesn’t play well, it tends to be a case of not intuiting where he can be most successful against a given opponent. His jumper also tends to be streaky.

At one time considered a long-term wing or at least a combo forward, his added height and muscle (and somewhat tight hips) now make him a power forward all the way. He could serve as a purely interior forward in college, if desired, but long-term he projects as an NBA hybrid.

I’d categorize him as an excellent overall basketball athlete due to his coordination and balance, but purely in terms of run/jump explosiveness, he’s good rather than great.

Beyond his physical gifts, Giles competes with a hunger and emotional expression that’s rare. He can get frustrated, like most young players, but mostly he directs his focus at action. He connects with the crowd and inspires his team the way a superstar should, and he holds himself fully accountable for leading the troops.

Speaking of young, in this age of reclassification Giles easily could be a 2017 prospect and no one would bat an eye. He’s a full 12-18 months younger than some of his 2016 peers, so time clearly is on his side.

We and others certainly will grade him by the strictest standards in the coming months, because otherwise our reports would consist of little more than platitudes and (shudder) hyperbole. At this level of the game, the questions follow this format:

1) Can this player be a college superstar on day one?;

2) Will this player “merely” be an NBA starter, or can he rise to an all-star or even higher plateau?

Each of those accomplishments tends to elude even the most touted prospects, and no one can know whether Giles will be able to translate his game to that extent, either, but suffice it to say the believers — including the Hall of Fame coaches tracking his every move — far outnumber the doubters. Let’s see where he can take it from here.

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