One on one with Jayson Tatum

Rated as the top small forward prospect in the class of 2016 by, St. Louis star Jayson Tatum has picked up a number of early offers including one from Duke. He sat down with TDD to go over that and much more.

Are you a St. Louis area native?

Jayson Tatum:Yeah, I was born and raised in St Louis. My father played and graduated from Saint Louis University, he was a big man though but we are about the same height, I'm a little taller actually. I'm about 6-foot-8, and 190 pounds right now.

What kind of position do you see yourself playing in college?

I think I'm more of a guard, but with playing on the wing area, I can go down into the post sometimes if I have a smaller guard on me.

Do you have a preferred style of play when thinking from a team approach?

I like to get up and down but I do like to get the ball in my hands and using ball screens, I love coming off of ball screens.

Who were your favorite players and teams growing up?

Growing up my favorite player has always been Kobe Bryant. I just like that he's a great competitor and he doesn't back down from anybody. He was always just the best growing up and that's what I love about him. I'm a Lakers fan as well, but I don't have a favorite college team, I have college players that I really like.

Like who?

Kyle Anderson from UCLA, Jabari Parker especially from Duke, and Julius Randle from Kentucky.

What makes you say Jabari Parker especially?

He's just so versatile. He plays the all five positions really, and he can score from really anywhere on the court and I just feel like he's the most skilled player in college. They play on TV all the time, so I'm getting to watch them play quite a bit.

How long have you been following him as a player?

Yeah I definitely was watching him since high school, he played USA Basketball like I have.

Have you ever had any contact with him through USA Basketball?

No, he was out of high school by the time I was playing for the USA Team.

Does it play a big role in your recruitment and evaluation of Duke that they have Jabari there?

Yeah, watching how they play and how he plays in their offense, I definitely watch that a lot.

  What was your Team USA experience like?

My experience has been really great, I was very thankful for everybody, all the coaches, it was a real gift to be able to be a part of that team and to play with those guys, like with all the best guys from around the country, going out of the country to compete and experiencing a foreign country, it was great. It was different going out of the country, it was my first time out of the country, it was different and it was more of a business trip.

Who are your really good friends with USA Basketball?

I still keep in touch with most of the guys on the team, I'm real close with Harry Giles from North Carolina, V.J. King from Akron, Ohio and Josh Langford from Alabama. We had some things in common, we were shooting around at the same basket and we got to talking and we would hang out both before and after practice, things like that.

Harry Giles mentioned a few months ago that out of all the guys he's played with in USA Basketball, that you were a guy that he would really like to play with in college…

Yeah, me and him keep in touch a lot, and that is definitely something that we talk a lot about, playing in college together because we really enjoy playing together.

What is it about playing with him that you really enjoy?

He's so aggressive, he's a mismatch down low for big men but he can also step out and be versatile and he can handle the ball well and he's the best player in our grade and he has great motor and he's great to play with, he's very unselfish.

With you guys talking about teaming up, did you follow this year's package deal of Okafor and Jones?

Yeah I look up to those guys a lot, especially Jahlil you know, we're pretty good friends and we've gotten close through USA Basketball. I really look up to those guys as well. Me and Jahlil will tweet each other every once and awhile.

Those guys were insisting they would play together for years, are you confident you and Harry are on the same page as those two were?

Yes, I think we are.

In that case, have you given any thought to how to coordinate the entirety of the recruiting process?

I hope so. We might have different things that we like in different programs, and we'll have to probably come together and find out what we have most in common in the programs that we like the most.

What kind of aspects of the programs are you paying close attention to with the schools that are recruiting you?

How they run their offense, really just the coaches, who I can have the best relationship with and who I feel can push me the most and get the most out of me.

You've got a ton of interest from a lot of top schools already, do you have any favorites so far based on who is recruiting you?

No favorites just yet.

I wanted to ask you about Kentucky and North Carolina, how do you feel about those two programs since they have come on so strong at such an early stage in your recruitment?

Yeah they, Coach Calipari and Coach Williams, they both offered me really early in the summer, they came to see me play and they really showed me a lot of interest. I feel like they both have two great coaches, I feel like they are both a lot alike, they have great tradition, great fanbases, obviously Kentucky has more superstars right now but they are really young, they took some lessons this year when they played older teams, but I like how they play and how Coach Calipari gets them to play unselfishly and how he gets all those McDonald All Americans to play unselfishly and pass the ball and play defense, it shows a lot.

How often do you interact with them?

They can't call me directly yet because I'm just a sophomore, but they'll text my dad because he's also a coach and they tell him how they are hoping for the process to go and when they might be coming up for a visit or when I might go visit them or when they are coming to watch me play or workout.

Do you or your family reach out in any way on your own to coaches that are recruiting you?

Mmm, not really, I just let my dad handle that and they can talk with him. Him and my mom really help me with my recruitment, they've both been in my life all my life and they help me a lot. They definitely talk to the coaches and get their intake and they definitely tell me how they feel about the coaches, but they do leave it up to me somewhat to see how I feel about the coaches.

Does offer timing factor into your early evaluation of the process?

I'm very thankful because  I got those offers at such a young age, I'm still so young and there's so many guys my age who don't fill out to their potential, it just shows a lot that they took that chance and they offered a scholarship at such a young age. It definitely will help in my decision if schools were on me so early and offered me scholarships, but I understand both sides.

If you had a choice, would you rather be part of a huge class, or would you prefer to be one of a few guys that comes in and blends?

I definitely wouldn't mind being part of a big class, but you really just have to feel comfortable with the guys and you have to like the guys that you are either coming in with or who are already there, you have to be able to include them and not be selfish out there.

Which schools have come in hard after you of late?

Lately, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan State, South Carolina, Duke and Kentucky. All of those schools that I just named has offered.

Can you take me through what the Duke interest has been up until this point?

Yeah I talked to Coach K and to some of their assistant coaches who have come out to see me play. Coach K and I had a really good conversation, he had told me that he had heard a lot of good things about me and especially that all the people he had talked to with USA Basketball about me all had really good things to say about me.

With that initial conversation with Coach K, did he talk about how he wants the recruiting process to move forward with Duke and you?

Yeah he said that he definitely wanted to come see me play and that he normally waits to offer kids until after their sophomore year so they can see their grades and see who really excels both on and off the court, especially in the classroom.

How did you feel about that initial approach?

I take my academics very seriously, so I accepted it.

Have you formed an initial impression of Duke now that you have interacted with the staff?

Duke's a very, a very well-respected program with one of the best coaches, they got great tradition and great players. It's still too early to say how I feel about them. I know Harry lives in North Carolina and he tells me that he likes the program a lot and that he really loves Coach K. He says the atmosphere is crazy there and he's already been there for a couple of games.

Are you planning on taking any visits anytime soon anywhere?

Yeah, I'd like to, I don't have anywhere in particular right now where I'd like to visit, we'll probably look at that after the high school season is over.

Are there any schools that you think it's a no-brainer you'll probably look to visit at some point?

Yeah, probably Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Duke, North Carolina and Florida.

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