How did the first day of USA Camp go for you?
Jayson Tatum: It went really well, I think I came out here and did what my expectations were set at to do. You can always do better but with the first day of traveling and being at this altitude, guys trying to catch their breath, you just have to fight through it.
What it’s like for you competing in the same trials as some of the older guys there?
It’s challenging but it’s a good one. These guys have experience playing at the next level and they know a little bit more about the game and they are stronger and faster, it’s going to help us in the long run. The interaction has been good with them, everybody is out here trying to help each other improve and everybody is trying to learn.
Who are you rooming with this time around?
Oh, Harry (Giles). It seems like the norm out here, we’re always in the same room it seems like.
I don’t think I’ve ever asked, but between you and Harry—is one more the neat guy and the other more the opposite?
I wouldn’t call myself a neat freak but I’d definitely consider myself a little more well-kept than Harry, haha. He comes in and just throws his stuff around, but at least he keeps it on his side of the room, haha.
For fans who don’t understand what the day-to-day experience is like for you guys during USA Camp…any insight you can give into the inner workings of an experience like that for you as a player?
Really besides today where we only had one practice, it’s usually two practices every day with a practice in the morning usually starting around 8, 830 that runs until 10 or 10:30. After that you get something to eat and maybe you take a nap. Then you usually have practice sometime around 5 or 5:30 until about 8 or 8:30 here. Then you get something to eat and try to get some sleep. If you make the team, for the next week and a half or so after that which I’ve experienced twice now, it’s not easy because you are playing against the best players in the country who are older. So to come out here and compete hard twice a day for at least two, two and a half hours twice a day, it definitely takes a toll on your body but if this is really what you want to do in life, you will compete and give it your all.
What’s the feedback been like between you and the coaching staff there so far?
It’s been really good, I talked to most of the coaches today after we got done and they all told me that I did well today and to keep it up and try to stay healthy.
Last year you got to go to Dubai—if you make the team this year where are you headed as a team and what are you looking forward to about going there?
Yeah, it’s Greece. I’m just looking forward mostly to a different experience with being in a different country and hopefully see something I haven’t seen before and just have fun.
Who were you matched up with during the practices today?
Josh Jackson and Terrance Ferguson and L.J. Peak.
You and Josh are obviously recognized as two of the best wing players in your class—what’s the relationship like with you both?
We’re really close. We’ve been spending a lot of time during the summer the past few years. We’ve grown to really like each other a lot and we learn from each other because we play against each other a lot. There’s some things that I’m amazed by with him and likewise. We’re both similar but we’re also really different in how we play but we both go hard at each other when we’re out there to compete and make each other better because we both have the same aspirations in life.
Do you talk as much with Josh about the recruiting side of things like you do with Harry, or is that not as much a topic of conversation between you two?
I think it’s a little bit different. We talk about which schools are recruiting us and which schools we like, but I don’t think we probably have the same schools recruiting us.
It’s been reported from a recruiting perspective that you are pretty much down to a top two that you are considering—can you confirm the accuracy of that report and how you feel about that being out there?
No, I’m still at four schools but I should be making a decision next month. You see a lot of things reported but you can’t pay attention to them too much.
With the decision coming next month potentially—are there any decision-making factors that either are or could push the decision timeframe back at all?
Not that I plan on, I think I have my mind set on deciding next month in July.
As you head towards the finish line—what have you and your family been focusing on as you discuss things?
Just what schools are keeping contact the most and what schools do I feel like could develop me into the best that I can be and who I am most comfortable with if I decide to stay home or go away for school. Also if I’m comfortable with the coaches is a big point.
With looking at who is still making you a priority, how do those efforts factor in since you’ve been so highly recruited for so long?
It’s a big thing for me. If the school took the time out when I was young, like a freshman or sophomore, most of the schools who are still there are still recruiting me pretty hard.
When you think about the type of decision you see yourself making when it comes to college - how would you classify it?
I wouldn’t say it’s a business decision because that implies that money is involved and I’ve been an amateur athlete my whole life and will remain so. For me with my decision it is all about basketball and I just want to get better as a person, on and off the court. Just have that college environment and be a part of something special.
With it being a basketball decision, how much will it factor into your decision how the four programs have specified what position and how they would use you?
All of the schools have said that I’m not going to be limited to one position, they just say that I would be a “basketball player” there. They’ve definitely shown me different spots on the floor where I could do well in there and how I would fit in with the rest of the team, but none of them are saying I’d only play one position.
For some programs who have had players of your size and athleticism, being a “basketball player” in their program means that you could play in a stretch four or big wing role. Is that an attractive possibility for you?
I enjoy playing the four, and I pride myself on working on my post moves and keeping the ball spreading and doing different things with pick and rolls. I would be totally fine wherever the coach would put me.
Would you mind sharing how Duke has specified to you how they see themselves both developing you and how they would use you as a player in their system if you were to play for them?
Really they have said they would put me on the floor in different positions and they are telling me I’d be able to play my game in the flow of the offense and I wouldn’t have any restrictions, they would want me to be the player that they are recruiting.
How much are you evaluating the recruiting efforts of all four programs and potential depth charts as you consider your possible fit?
I look at it a little bit but I always know that whatever school I go to, I will have to earn my spot.
Has any of the final four programs on your list compared you to past players in their programs?
Some yeah that have had players at my position, just like some. Guys at my position like Jabari Parker at Duke, he’s the same height and my size or guys like Harrison Barnes who went to North Carolina. SLU really had Larry Hughes but we play two different kinds of positions, that’s been about it.
Do you feel those are fair comparisons with what you have seen of those players?
Yeah they are fair. Jabari Parker, for sure, is a guy I like to watch a lot. I watched him play quite a bit and I like the way they used him at Duke. I didn’t watch Harrison Barnes that much, I just watched him a little bit.
What did you like about how Duke used Jabari?
They let him play his game, especially on offense. He was free to make the right decisions on the court.
If you were to compare and contrast between Duke and Saint Louis, what kind of differences do you see between the two with their recruiting pitches and how the coaching staffs relate to you?
The biggest would probably be past players they have had because Duke has had so many big time guys in a big time program who are past or current NBA players. And probably like the conference too, the guys they play against on a game to game basis. Relationship wise, I’m close with both and Duke makes a real effort to come out and see me as much as they can. With SLU, they are like 10 minutes from the house and I’ve been to that program quite a few times.
How does SLU handle contact with you when you aren’t on campus visiting?
They play it a little more cool. Sometimes I go down there and play open gym with the guys and I may stop by the office and say something to the coach.
Is there a comfort level for you with SLU with how close they are to where you live?
Yeah, most definitely.
With other programs that may contact you more than say SLU, does it make it less important in your eyes that they maintain as frequent a communication with you compared to other programs who are farther away?
No, not at all. Their effort counts.
As you sit down with the family—what’s going to go into the final family discussions as you hone in on the final choice?
Just going with my first instinct. They support me no matter what I do.
Do you view it as really important that you and Harry have a lot of dialogue leading up to your decision?
I’ll probably decide first for sure, but I’ll definitely keep in touch with Harry. We have to do what’s best for us first and if that’s playing together at a school, then we know that’ll be the right decision. We don’t try to tell each other what school to go to, we just look at what schools we both like and then go from there.
Do you and your family have a plan for how the actual announcement is likely to be made for your college choice?