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A Humble Jayson Tatum Remains Hungry For Success

Athlete Spotlight : Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is a 2016 basketball recruit from St. Louis, Missouri.

Story By: Marc Bowman
National Recruiting Analyst –


Sports excellence runs in the family for Jayson Tatum.

His father, Justin, was a hoops star at St. Louis University and played professionally overseas. His mother, Brandy Cole, was a volleyball player in high school.

“She could have gone to college,” Jayson said. “She had a lot of scholarships.”

Instead, she left school to help raise Jayson, later returning to eventually get a law degree.

“My parents, both mom and dad,” Tatum said, when asked about his role models. “On and off the court. They’ve taught me so much.”

(Jayson Tatum on left, and his dad Justin on the right)

He’s had lots of support from the rest of his family, too.

“It’s always been in the family since I was young,” he said of basketball. “My uncles and cousins play. My dad played overseas when I was younger. He was who I wanted to look up to. I got to go to Amsterdam over spring break. That was a great experience.”

And now the younger Tatum is ready to make his own mark in the game. The five-star recruit is currently ranked in the top five among Class of 2016 prospects and has drawn high praise from several coaches who have seen him play in camps and in his games at Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis.

“He has an extra burst that you don’t see in most other players,” said an SEC coach. “You can’t coach something like that. He can be coasting along, and then just kick it into another gear. It is pretty special to watch.”

“He’s a terrific player that can do a little bit of everything,” added a Big 12 coach.

An honor roll student who enjoys school, especially history, Tatum believes he has a variety of ways to help his team succeed.

“It’s not just one skill set,” he explained. “I play multiple positions, do multiple things to help a team get wins. I try to be unselfish, but I can score at will, from various parts of the court.”

“It is scary to think how good he can be once he fully develops,” said a Missouri Valley coach. “You know he has the genes with his dad being a standout player.”

The 15-year-old is likely to add a bit more to his 6-7, 180-pound frame before he graduates to the collegiate level. But with his superior ball-handling ability, he believes he can handle either a guard or forward assignment.

“Either power forward or point guard,” said Tatum of his best position. He believes he has the size to be a force inside, but that he could take advantage of a “mismatch against a smaller guard.”

The scouts agree.

“Really like his ability to score inside and outside,” said a Big Ten coach. “At 6-7, he creates mismatch problems because he can play multiple positions, and he can put the ball in the hoop from anywhere on the court.”

“I’ve still got a long way to go,” Tatum said. “I can always improve, get more physical. I need to get stronger, way stronger.”

He believes his mid-range skills deserve the most attention, and he put in a lot of work over the past summer to improve that part of his game.

“The area I worked on most is mid-range and post moves,” he said. “To take a defender from the post and be able to score from the blocks. It’s added a lot of improvement to my game.”

Watch Tatum’s Basketball Video

In addition to getting advice from his father, Tatum has had the chance to work with current and former NBA players from the St. Louis area.

“There have been a lot of guys coming out of St. Louis,” he said. “I’ve worked with Larry Hughes (who played for eight teams in a 14-year NBA career) and (Golden State Warriors power forward) David Lee (a Chaminade graduate) comes back and works out with me. I talk to him a lot.”

Washington Wizards shooting guard Brad Beal has made an especially big impression on Tatum.

“I worked out with Brad a lot; almost every day in the month of August,” Tatum said. “I’ve known Brad since elementary school. All these guys, they taught me a lot. I learned a lot from them.”

A recent experience which has made a tremendous impression upon Tatum was the USA U-16 team which travelled to Uruguay and capture the 2013 FIBA Americas championship in June. The star-studded roster included a veritable Who’s Who of the best young prospects in the game. Tatum started in all five games; each of them a victory.

“That was the experience of a lifetime,” Tatum said. “To come together with the best guys in the world in South America, winning a gold medal. We made friends and we all stay in contact, like (North Carolina Class of 2016 standout) Harry Giles and (Ohio Class of 2015 standout) V.J. King. I still keep in contact with some of the guys that didn’t make the team.”

The international competition also instigated a small bit of internal rivalry for Tatum.

“It does make you want to compete,” he said. “You get to see guys from around the country, ranked higher, and see how you match up with their skill level.”

So far, so good, as he ranks higher than any other U-16 Class of 2016 player except second-ranked Josh Jackson and third-ranked Harry Giles, whom Tatum calls the best player his age he’s ever faced.

His high ranking has already generated 12 scholarship offers from the best basketball programs in the country. His offers include Michigan State, Kentucky, Ohio State, Kansas, Florida, Memphis, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, and St. Louis, and he is being recruited by many other top basketball schools, including Duke.

The attention has taken Tatum by surprise.

“It’s shocking because when I was growing up, I never thought I’d be that good or live up to that potential,” he said. “When coaches come to watch me play and offer scholarship it’s really great. It’s been a great experience.”

Tatum, who hopes to study business in college, won’t hint which school has the recruiting edge.

“I haven’t leaned towards one school,” he said. “I’m taking it one step at a time. I have enjoyed the coaches talking to me. All the coaches are great guys, some more than others. I’ve talked to some of them quite a few times.”

He also got a good taste of college basketball life in a visit to Illinois.

“I learned a lot of things,” he said. “I learned how they run practices, and on schedules, how college life is for a student athlete.”

The recruiting process has been easy on Tatum so far because of his age.

“They can’t call me yet,” he explained. “They have to talk to my father.”

For now, Tatum will simply enjoy the ride of being a top prospect while working to improve his game.


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