NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. Even at a tournament for the best of the best, Harry Giles commands attention.
As Giles, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound junior from Winston-Salem, moved up and down the court at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam, coaches spoke in hushed tones among themselves. Not all of the talk focused on the present.
You should have seen him before he hurt his knee, one said. He was more bouncy, reminiscent of KG (Kevin Garnett). So unselfish, a great teammate, he added.
Give it another 10 months, another coach said.
For right now, its impossible to talk about Giles without referencing the severe injury that wiped out his sophomore season, keeping him on the sideline for 11 months.
In June of 2012, while playing with USA Basketballs Under-16 team in Uruguay, Giles tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee. He made his return to the court in May. He was the top-ranked freshman in the country before his injury. ESPN currently has him at No. 5 for the class of 2016.
His injury hasnt affected his recruiting, especially in the Triangle area. Giles, a former teammate of incoming North Carolina freshman Theo Pinson, was the first freshman to ever receive a scholarship offer from coach Roy Williams. Duke offered him that early as well.
He is a top priority for both schools. N.C. State is also interested, and hometown Wake Forest has been tracking him since middle school. Notable out-of-state suitors include Ohio State, Syracuse, Kentucky and Nevada-Las Vegas.
People forgot about me, so Im just trying to wake them up a little bit because I can tell that they were thinking, oh, he wont be back the same, Giles said after his debut at the EBYL finals. I knew that I had to work hard and show them.
With his knee at about 85 to 90 percent, in his estimation, Giles reminded everyone in attendance why hes considered a special talent. Wednesday against The Family, a Detroit-based AAU team, Giles scored 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds as his squad, Team CP3, erased a 12-point halftime deficit and won 70-59.
It takes one look to see why coaches are so excited about him. Even with two years left in high school, he looks like a college player, his physical gifts evident, even though he has room to add more upper body strength.
In his Thursday morning game (14 points in a losing effort), Giles elevated to take an inbounds pass and finished with a one-handed tomahawk slam. His shooting range extends away from the bask as well, as he drilled elbow jumpers with ease.
Eventually, many expect him to develop more of a perimeter game, scoring from wherever he wants. For now, his primary position is power forward. He said he feels more aggressive than he did as a freshman the benefits of aging and being forced to spend so much time on the sideline.
Im attacking it harder because I know how it was sitting out, he said. Ive been hungry, Ive been starving. I just want to go out on the court and get out there and eat.
There were times, though, when it seemed his three-days-a-week trips to rehab would never end. Early on, he reached out to Nerlens Noel, the former Kentucky star who suffered a similarly severe knee injury and sat out his first year in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Mostly, though, Giles just kept grinding, doing something every day to ensure he came back stronger than he was before the injury.
On the court, the remnants of his 11-month rehab odyssey remain in the form of a large black knee brace. Some wonder why hes playing at less than 100 percent he has nothing less to prove to those recruiting him to the next level.
Hes healthy, his dad, Harry Giles, said. Youve got to start playing sometime. He may not be 100 percent, but hes healthy.
Even at 85 percent and still getting used to his brace, Giles was like a carrot dangling in front of the college coaches assistants Nate James and Jon Scheyer from Duke and Kenny Payne from Kentucky, as well as head coaches Jim Boeheim, Dave Rice, Thad Matta, Mark Gottfried and Williams.
Next week, Giles will head back to USA Basketball to try out for the U17 team, a full-circle moment in his recovery process.
It showed me how much I love the game, he said of his injury. Its made my love for the game even more because it told me that every time I step on the court, I need to give it my all, like its my last time.
This wont be the last time Triangle basketball fans hear Giles name.
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