One on One With Jayson Tatum

The nation’s top overall player surprised many this week when he announced he’d scheduled his first official visit to Duke. So what is Jayson Tatum looking for with the early trip to Durham? We sat down with him to get the scoop.

It sounds like you have been traveling a bit recently with the holiday tournaments…how did your team do in those events?

Jayson Tatum: Yeah, we just got back from West Virginia this past weekend, the Cancer Research Classic. It went pretty well, we beat Stevenson, which I think was the #1 overall team in Illinois, so that was pretty big for us.

What’s it like for you going to those tournaments being billed as one of the top guys there?

It’s a good feeling, there’s a lot of other great players there and the atmosphere at those events with the fans there and where you play, that’s always a good thing to be a part of.

How’s your high school season shaping up on the whole?

It looks really good this year, we’ve got a lot of depth with over eight guys playing a lot of minutes and we improved a lot, especially since last season. We’re getting better at moving the ball. I’m playing pretty much the same role as last year, I have the ball in my hands a good amount and I try to make plays.  

On the recruiting front—looks like you are lining up some visits from what’s been reported.

Yeah I’m trying to visit Duke on the 28th when they play Syracuse.

How did that come about?

Just really we looked at my schedule and I had a free weekend that we could use to travel and I didn’t want to wait too late to take my official visits so that when it comes to narrowing it down to the colleges I’m picking from the schools that have interest in me. So, Duke will be hopefully my first official visit.

What was it about Duke that earned them the first official visit?

I think it’s the opportunity presented itself, and I wanted to do it then. I guess they were the first who really wanted me to take that official visit first. Out of all the schools they were the only one who were trying to get me there for a visit as soon as possible.

Was the visit date for the Syracuse game at Duke’s request, or was that your preference?

It was a collective decision really. They’ve always wanted me to come visit and that’s one of a few schools on my list that I have not visited yet. I just thought it’d be best to take an official visit there. We really wanted more so to get this visit done before my school year is out and I think that was just the best time for us to do it.

How did Duke react with the visit given that it’s so early in the recruiting process and timeline?

They were really excited that I had the chance to come up and check out their program and school.

  Now that you are starting to plan official visits, are there any other schools that you are hoping to visit officially or are actively planning at this point?

Not yet, there’s no other dates I have set with any other schools, but I definitely would like to get out especially to schools I haven’t been to. I haven’t been to Connecticut, Arizona, Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina.

With UCONN, Arizona, Wake Forest and North Carolina, are you and your family potentially planning a visit to any of them for during this current season?

Probably not because they are all really far away.

How frequent is the communication between Duke and you and your family?

Yeah we talk with the Duke coaches pretty often. We have built a relationship, especially the more we talk. It’s better you get to know them as you come in contact more with the coaches.

What have you learned about the Duke coaches as you have come to know them better?

Really how they plan to use me if I were to attend their school, and what other guys that are or were big time guys are doing or have done, and how they have excelled at their program.

What is your initial reaction to the points they’ve shared with you?

I’m understanding that I would have to work for everything at Duke, but I would definitely be involved in the offense and I’d be able to display my talents and try to help the team.

With an early visit, is the focus on confirming your initial feelings, or more of a fact finding mission?

I think it’s trying to get answers to some questions, and just really trying to see up close how their program is run.

What are your thoughts on Duke’s style of play this year?

They are playing exceptionally well. Duke and Kentucky are the two top teams in college basketball. Both of those coaches are doing great jobs with the talent they have on their team.

With Duke and Kentucky—are you primarily just talking with Coach K and Coach Cal at this point?

Not really. I talk to the entire staff with both of those schools. It’s hard to say who is making it a priority more to talk to me because I talk to both staffs every week. They talk to my parents, my dad, they both make sure they stay in contact with us.

It’s obvious that you and your family have a plan as it relates to your recruiting process, Jayson. With the early visit, is that something that was planned or has it been an adaptation on your part?

I think it’s on the path that we anticipated and wanted in keeping it controlled and not letting the process get carried away. You really can’t dwell on all the attention that is involved in this process too much with some people saying you are the top player in your grade, this and that. Or people always asking where you are going. You just have to stay focused and do what you want to do. You have to be in control.

With the plan moving forward—is it important to you that you take additional official visits to any other programs before your decision comes?

Yeah I think it is important because especially for the schools that will be on the top list, it’s important to see them and get a feel for the campuses.

For the official visits—is it vital for you to do them during a home basketball game for the schools you visit?

You would like to get it during the season, but you as a basketball player have your own games during the high school season, so most of the time it’s going to be outside of the basketball season. Maybe when they have a football game or something like that. It doesn’t really matter to me.

Do you consider it important for you to have all your official visits done by the time the early signing period comes in November this year before the next college season gets going?

Hopefully I’ll be able to decide before November so that I can get it out of the way before the high school and college season. That way I can enjoy my senior year. That’s the plan.

What kind of questions are you asking as a family of schools as you evaluate them for their potential fit for you?

How the coach uses his players, especially guys with my type of skill talent, my size and how they develop guys. Plus how guys interact between themselves and with the coaching staff and what guys they have going to the next level. It’s definitely something I’ll look into how many guys went through their program and got better and were able to get to the next level who improved.

From recent reports—it doesn’t sound like you and Harry Giles and Dennis Smith are having a lot of serious conversations about playing together in college. That was a storyline early on, but has it changed?

It’s on and off that we talk about it, but it’s not official or anything. It’s just a possibility, but it’s not something we talk about every day. It could end up being that we each make our own decision and end up at the same school or at different schools, we’ll just have to see.  

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