Tatum's Rise Continues

MEQUAN, Wis. --- Roy Williams makes frequent recruiting trips to all parts of the country any time his schedule allowed. One of the most popular destinations for the Tar Heel head coach this past season was St. Louis, thanks to the presence of sophomore star Jayson Tatum.

"I think Coach Roy Williams has come to the most high school games out of all the coaches, so that means a lot," said Tatum who is currently ranked Scout.com's No. 2 prospect in the class of 2016.

The 6-7 wing from St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade College Prep is a top priority for most major college programs. "Right now, recruiting is wide open," said Tatum. "I'm just taking it one step at a time."

While Tatum has taken visits to schools in close proximity to his home state including Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky, he would like to check out some other schools on his radar. "I don't have any set dates for visits, but Duke, North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana are all schools I would like to visit during the summer."

At this time last year, Tatum opened up the AAU season at the NY2LA Swish N' Dish located just outside of Milwaukee. He took the 16U division by storm, winning MVP honors while also leading his St. Louis Eagles team to a championship game victory. One year later, Tatum did not have the same success at the Swish N' Dish but he came close, leading his 17U Eagles squad to a second place finish.

The Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year noted that the level of competition was a lot different this time around in an older age group.

"It's a lot more up-tempo than last year and a lot more physical," said Tatum. "I'm just trying to keep improving every single year, so getting back to the championship was a goal of mine."

With the size of a forward and the ball-handling skills of a point guard, it is hard to give Tatum a set position. In the tournament's last two games, Tatum lined up on the wing and in the post while routinely bringing the ball up the court. With a diverse skill-set, one of the few knocks on Tatum is his overall strength.

"I've been in the weight room and gained a few pounds," said Tatum with a smile. "I'm also trying to improve the quickness of my moves and getting my shot off quicker."

In a close semifinal win, Tatum showcased his improved quickness by consistently getting by his defender and into the paint for baskets, finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds. "The first half I was a little sluggish and my teammates had to help me out, noted Tatum. "Then I just tried to carry the team and be a leader."

In the championship game it was hard for the Eagles to keep up with the hot outside shooting from another Nike counterpart in All-Ohio Red, but Tatum did everything he could to keep the game competitive. He finished with 25 points and five rebounds, which included several pull-up threes and mid-range jump shots.

In these two games, Tatum also shot 19-21 from the free throw line.

Just 16 years old, Tatum is primed for a strong AAU season in the Nike EYBL. It took only one viewing from Roy Williams at the Peach Jam last summer to offer a scholarship and he then wasted no time in making frequent visits to St. Louis during Tatum's sophomore season.

With the EYBL tipping off in conjunction with the live recruiting period of the spring in under three weeks, it is safe to assume that the UNC staff will be present when Tatum plays his EYBL opener on the morning of April 26 in Sacramento, Calif.

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