Jayson Tatum, the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2016, committed Sunday to Duke.
Tatum announced his decision at the Nike Peach Jam AAU tournament in South Carolina, after his team, the St. Louis Eagles, defeated Winston-Salem-based Team CP3 All-Stars 74-73 in a semifinal game. He chose the Blue Devils over his hometown university, Saint Louis, and Kentucky and North Carolina.
Typically, top recruits wait until the fall or spring of their senior year to announce their college choices. But after a successful summer, Tatum had made up his mind and wanted to get the weight of the decision off of his shoulders.
“I’m ready to decide,” he said on an ESPNU telecast. “I’ve been in this process for a while. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time when I know in my heart where I want to go.”
Tatum is a 6-foot-8, 190-pound wing player who can handle the ball like a guard – a growth spurt in high school changed his body and his position on the court. He has the length to play and defend multiple positions and can score from all over the floor. It’s his offense, combined with his athleticism, that leaves spectators wowed. High-major coaches have been comparing him to a young Kobe Bryant for years.
As for why he chose the Blue Devils, Tatum cited his ability to develop as a player and person.
“I’m just so happy to be a part of this program with great coaches like this,” he said.
Tatum is Duke’s first commitment in the 2016 class. One of his opponents in the semifinal game, No. 1 overall recruit Harry Giles, is Duke’s other main target for the class. Giles is a 6-foot-10, 230-pound post player from High Point Wesleyan Christian, and he was Tatum’s roommate this summer for the FIBA world championship in Greece. Their USA Basketball under-19 team won the gold medal.
Tatum said he planned to start doing a little recruiting of his own, hoping to persuade Giles to join him in Durham. It’s expected that Giles will choose between Duke and his hometown school, Wake Forest.
The Blue Devils have had the top recruiting class in each of the past two years, according to ESPN’s rankings. In each of those years, Duke landed its top targets – Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow in the class of 2014; then Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter in the class of 2015, which has arrived on campus and will debut this fall. All of those players have experience playing for USA Basketball, which has been revitalized under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the coach of the men’s national team.
Tatum’s decision gives the Blue Devils a head start on making it a three-year streak atop the recruiting rankings. Last year’s top class left Durham with a title. And even though that trio is gone, plenty of talent remains – and is still to come.