Behind The Scenes With Jayson Tatum

The Blue Devils recruited and targeted Jayson Tatum early on when evaluating the class of 2016. But how did Coach K go about developing a relationship and what obstacles did Duke have to overcome to earn the commitment from the five star prospect. We take you behind the scenes of the recruitment here.

To start, what were your thoughts on how Jayson’s recruiting process progressed?   How did you handle it?

Brandy Cole, mother of Jayson Tatum - I think it went very well. I think one thing that was a little bit different for us is that we started so early with it. A lot of people think it’s going to be overwhelming and that you are going to be inundated with all these calls and letters every month at your house.  But, by the time schools could call us and send us things, we were already over a year into the recruiting process and we had already developed a relationship with several schools.   

So, it wasn’t as overwhelming as some other people may have experienced. Then we just tried to make sure that we structured it in a way that was conducive to all the other things we had going on in our lives. All of the coaches were very respectful with that and we setup a kind of timeline as to when it would be a good time to call Jayson and still be a kid and take care of his studies for school. 

Once the process started where schools could start calling us, it was really a blessing that they were willing to take a chance and put scholarships towards our son at such an early age because he got most of his offers when he was a freshman and sophomore.  And when it’s a school like Duke who does that, that’s almost unheard of.  It was a real blessing and we were really excited and I think it allowed us, when you have so many offers from so many of the big schools, there will be other schools who feel like they may not even be able to recruit you or get you, so I think a lot of schools kinda backed off once his recruitment started gaining momentum and they saw the caliber of schools involved with him.

It was really exciting and we made an effort early on to reach out to coaches on our own to develop relationships with them. By the time the coaches could call us, we had already developed a relationship with a lot of them. I remember a lot of people were telling us that on the midnight that Jayson could start getting calls from coaches, they told us that our phone was going to go dead because of all the calls and texts, but by that point, we had already had so much communication that it really was an easy-breezy process for us. We were very fortunate and blessed with that, it wasn’t as overwhelming or stressful as we had anticipated. 

What do you remember about the early dialogue with the Duke staff?

I can remember…it’s funny, I remember the first time that Coach K came to the school to visit. He was sitting in a classroom, no one was there and we were just talking and I was basically asking him a bunch of questions like how he would plan on using Jayson.  One of my big things early on was he is 6-foot-9 but he’s a guard and he hasn’t had his back to the basket, so I wanted him to be assured and us too that he would be allowed to use his skill set. I know he’s going to have to post up and help out in the paint, but I know he’s going to be allowed to use all of his skills and play his game, so I just wanted people to know that early on so we could see what their intentions were.

We talked about academics as well because that’s really important to us and we’ve invested a lot in his education and I have instilled in him that education is very important.  The thing that was really noticeable to me was that Coach K couldn’t sit still, he was just so excited when he was talking with us about the possibility of coaching Jayson and the special player that he is.  He just said it would be such a privilege to coach a player like him and how much he could help him grow as a player and as a man. I just remember we talked for however long we talked, the passion in his voice never went away, it was just really apparent that this man loves basketball and loved the idea of being able to coach our son. He had so many ideas already at that point about how he wanted to help Jayson grow like with his facial expressions, how vocal he could be and all of that. It was so exciting.

How did your feelings change about Duke after that conversation and then over time?

It was definitely…it left an impression but at that point in the process we weren’t trying to influence Jayson’s decision in any way because he’s the one who needed to decide since he was going to be going to where he was going to live there and play.  I wanted him to go somewhere where he would be comfortable so I tried to look at everybody objectively and we tried to analyze everybody with their style of play, style of coaching, the kind of players that have come through there as well as schools themselves with what else they have to offer outside of basketball. 

I will say that Coach Scheyer and Coach Capel just did a wonderful job in keeping in touch, and I know that Coach Scheyer was kinda a rookie out of the gate, but he was one of those coaches that if I told Scheyer that I had a big presentation coming, he would call me and we would talk about not just Jayson but also about the presentation I’d have to be giving in the near future or two or three weeks out.  It would be right before I had to present and he would call me that day and he’d ask how my presentation had gone, stuff like that. He was very detailed-oriented, very genuine and he paid a lot of attention.

What was your thought process towards Coach Scheyer as he was coming into Jayson’s recruiting process?

Scheyer and I are both pranksters and jokesters so we would tease each other a lot. Like I remember I used to joke with him by telling him, “what’s up with that—Duke gave us the new kid on the block” and he’d joke right back with us. 

Coach Scheyer is just a really great guy though, like I said before, he was always looking out for us, concerned for just things happening in our lives, keeping in touch, remembering important dates, stuff like that. I think it was a really good thing that he was so young because he could still relate since he was the most recent player on the coaching staff that had played for Coach K.  

It was so easy to talk with him about anything including his experience in playing for Coach K, what are some things that Coach K really helped him with. What was his experience like at Duke and after he graduated, and to hear the relationship that Coach K has with his players even after they graduate, he’s always there for the guys to reach out and talk with if they need help with something. That spoke volumes to us that everybody on Coach K’s staff is a former player of his and to hear all the things that Scheyer went through with his eye injury and just to know that even after you graduate, Coach K always has your back—that was really great.

Did you notice a big difference between what Coach K and Coach Capel and Coach Scheyer were emphasizing when you were talking with each one during Jayson’s recruiting process?

They would say things where they shared from maybe different perspectives. Like with Scheyer being a little bit younger or Capel and Nate being a little bit older—they had different perspectives and ways of saying things to us. What was consistent throughout all of it though was how much all of them thought Jayson was just a really special player and a high character kid, good student and they thought he embodied all these things that are important to Duke and the kind of kid they recruit. They also talked about all the things that Coach K could offer from his basketball perspective and experiences and teaching you to be a man and how he empowers you. 

Was there anything said to you throughout the entirety of Duke’s recruiting process of Jayson that you will always remember?

I just remember that anytime I talked to Coach K, one thing I remember is even when he couldn’t be there like when Jayson was playing overseas or with USA or over the summer, Coach would always watch the games and give his feedback and we’d ask him for things that we needed to work on and he just made me feel like he truly, genuinely means what he says and he was committed to helping Jayson becoming an even better person. 

He would call and ask how things were going with school, how were papers going or his presentation, it wasn’t just about basketball with him. When he talks to him, he’s always talking with Jayson about a wide range of things…it’s not just basketball.  He’d talk about how to be a good citizen and how to impact your community and make change where it’s needed.  He talked with Jayson about how he could use his name and his platform to do so many good things. It’s not just about playing basketball and making it to the League and making money and that was really important to me to hear that.

You know, one other thing that really stood out to me was at Duke, they don’t retire your jersey unless you graduate which meant a lot to me because that incentivizes guys to come back and finish even after they may have gone pro. 

Was there a point where Duke really became the most viable option?

I think definitely after we took our official visit.  Seeing the atmosphere and the size of the school, it really reminded him of his high school.  It’s a little smaller and more intimate and then right down to Cameron Indoor. I think he felt comfortable there with the venues, so I think after his official visit, I think he had a strong feeling and a strong contender for the number one spot in his recruitment. Then when Coach K came to our house after they won the National Championship and I think they won that Monday and then Thursday that week was the first official day they could go and do in-home visits and we were having bad weather, there were tornado warnings and we were like, “we don’t want you to come because it may not be safe” but Coach called that morning and he told us that he was aware of the weather reports but he was still planning on coming and we told him that it was ok, we understand that its bad weather and we understand it’s a safety thing, we don’t want anything to happen to you guys. He told us that he still really wanted to make it, it was important to them that Jayson knows how important he is to us and how serious we are about him and I told him that we do understand and all that but they still ended up making it in and that spoke volumes to us. He could have easily said that this is out of my control, the weather is just too bad and the pilots aren’t sure and it would have been a very legitimate excuse not to come, but they were dead set on making it there that night and we appreciated that.

For you, what was memorable from that visit?

It was kinda surreal when they walked into the house, you have a moment where you realize that Coach K is sitting in my living room and it’s almost unbelievable. We got to see him in a more intimate setting on our official visit and just to see how funny he is, how laid back and how down to earth he is and to see him interact with his players, they are laughing and joking and he’s keeping up with all the hip terms and phrases and keeping connected with his players. When he came here, we just sat back and relaxed and laughed and talked basketball, the championship, he told us stories about the game and then from watching film afterwords because he always watches games on film right after. It was a surreal experience.

Then you guys were just on campus for another visit, what was this experience like with it being the second time on campus?

It was great, Coach K and Mrs K and their daughter Debbie, we were talking about it after the game about how much more comfortable Jayson felt now after the first time visiting. The first time we visited on our official visit, the Cameron Crazies were chanting Jayson’s name and he didn’t know how to feel because he didn’t want to be in the spotlight like that, he didn’t want to walk across the court that first time so it took some nudging and encouraging then but this time we were walking into the gym and the Cameron Crazies were shouting his name and they were chanting for him to come sit with them and he immediately took a turn when we were walking in and he went over there to stand with them and they just immediately went crazy when he came over there. I just think he feels really at home, 

I think he feels really comfortable and he knows some of the players from last year. He knows Derryck Thornton really well, they hung out and you can tell he already feels like it’s his home and he can’t wait to get there next year. It was a lot more, he’s in a comfort zone now. When he committed it was like a weight came off his shoulders, he can focus on other things, you aren’t trying to answer questions that come a lot about how do you feel about these five or six schools, what do you like about them, now he’s just focused on getting better and getting stronger and getting ready for Duke.

The most recent Countdown to Craziness visit, what was on the itenerary?

I took my mom with me this time because she couldn’t come when Jayson went on his official visit. Coach Scheyer gave us a wonderful tour around the campus, around the bookstore, we made sure we got her a shirt and stuff. That trip was really all about her and giving her the chance to see the campus and see where Jayson was going to stay, and she just loved it. She got to meet the other coaches and all the players and Debbie and Mrs. K. Some of the kids like Derryck Thornton, we’ve known him for awhile now, but then we also knew some of the recruits and their parents who were also there for the visit from the EYBL and Nike events and USA. It was a great time to enjoy the campus and Countdown to Craziness and of course that night Debbie did an awesome job putting on the entire show. I think my mother had a really great time because she had wanted to go on the official visit, so she got a chance to meet Capel and Coach Nate and Coach K and everybody, even the trainers. It was a great time.

She was really speechless most of the time. She had a great time, I went to school here locally and she did as well, so you see these teams on TV in games and the big time atmosphere and you get to meet Coach K, so you get to see him in his environment where they are all much more comfortable and you know, they just treat you like family. The other thing is there is just something about Durham, everybody there is just so nice and hospitable and welcoming. That’s her baby too, so I’m sure that put her at ease once she saw where he’s going to be going. 

You mentioned the relationship with Derryck Thornton, how helpful was it for you guys during Jayson’s recruiting process?

It definitely did not hurt to know that whether it be with summer ball or USA or whatnot that you have this relationship with players you have grown up playing with. The longest relationship I would say is definitely with Harry (Giles). Those two have been friends for the longest time and were roommates for three summers straight. They played the Nike circuit and USA Basketball. It definitely helps to have that established relationships because you can put together that lineup of studs, but it definitely helps to have that chemistry with the team and to mesh. If that’s already there when you step on the floor-it gives you an advantage moving forward because it’s like you already started with that relationship even before you get to college.

What was your thought process towards all the fan and media discussion about Jayson and Harry?

You know we laugh about it a lot, Harry’s mom and I.  We just laughed about some of the things people say. We know it will be great when the boys play together…it’s special and we love Harry Giles to death and we want the best situation for each boy. It’ll be an advantage that they know each other so well and that’s something you can’t teach. 

What did you observe about how the Giles went through their recruiting process?

I tried to be very respectful because I know what’s it like going through the process. Harry is going to be phenomenal. We didn’t try to talk about his decision in great detail because we wanted to be respectful.

Now that Jayson is a senior in high school, has it hit you that Jayson is about to head to school?

You trying to make me cry, haha? I’m conflicted because a part of me is a little sad in that I ask what are we going to do when he’s gone, every summer the past 10 years has been basketball with travel ball, summer ball, USA, traveling, so I really don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I don’t have to do that anymore.  Maybe I need to get another dog or something.  I’m going to try to see as many games as humanly possible and I’m pretty fortunate with my job situation, they are going to be very flexible. I’d hate to have to take another bar exam, but if I have to do that in North Carolina to move there, I guess I can do that.  Right now I’m not practicing full time, I’ll mostly do traffic and criminal court things but during the day I do a lot of contract work and I keep my license active so I can do night court. 

You mind if I ask what drew you to practicing law as a profession?

I’m a woman, and I like arguing, haha.  Actually in high school I loved doing debate class and stuff like that. So you had a chance there to hear what profession you may be really good at and it always used to come down to the legal profession a lot for me. There were days when I thought it was never going to be possible because when you are young, you never think law school is going to be possible. So it took me longer to finish my first undergraduate degree, but when I was in my second bachelor’s degree program, I had a professor in a Foundations of Law class I took as an undergraduate and he was actually a student at SLU at the law school. I did very well in his class and I was very interested and so we just kinda built a relationship and he asked me why I wouldn’t just apply to law school.  I wasn’t sure because I was a single mom, had to go to work. He told me they had night, day and evening programs and so I didn’t even tell anybody when I went and took the LSAT and I figured that by not telling anybody that if I ended up not doing well on the test, nobody would even know. But I did well and I applied and the Dean called me and said that I was going to get a Dean’s Scholarship and all I had to do was pick between the day and the evening program. The evening program was longer, it was going to be five years, so I decided to go ahead and do it. Even though I don’t practice full time now, it just teaches how to think and write and it teaches you skills that you can take into almost any industry or profession. So I’ve done compliance work for the government and non-profits and I’ve done compliance and policy work on a contract basis. For the last four years I was the compliance department on a contract for the Department of Labor for unemployed workers or displaced workers. We ended up losing the contract due to sequestration but then I moved over to a healthcare management corporation, so I have to monitor state requirements and whenever we make changes to our payment and clinical policies. 

When Mr. Tatum and I had an interview awhile back we discussed how interesting Jayson’s process was and how differently he went about it, what’s your thoughts on how that unfolded?

Yeah and that’s something we tried to instill in him. For me, especially in the field I’m in, time is money and it takes a lot of money I know for these coaches to put their jets in the air to come and see Jayson play or fly us out for a visit so my thing was always with Jayson was be respectful, be appreciative of their time and their money. We didn’t want to mislead people by stringing people along if we didn’t have genuine interest in them, so I think we made a decision early on that if he didn’t have genuine interest in a place to actually consider going there, then we wouldn’t take those trips. Early on we took some un-officials to places that were in the Midwest like Kentucky and Kansas, but we did so much early on before the coaches could even call us and that really helped us navigate and narrow it down when the recruiting process started gaining momentum.


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