Celtics Jayson Tatum: Rising College Athlete

“We like his size, length, rebounding, shooting, his character. There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s a terrific player.”  – Coach Ainge

The Celtics’ plan all along was to get another scorer that could help the take the pressure off of Isaiah Thomas. He was once thought to be Markelle Fultz, but the Celtics had their eyes on another prize throughout the entire process, and on Thursday they cashed in by selecting Jayson Tatum of Duke. This was the player that was number one on the Celtics board. Not Markelle Fultz, not Lonzo Ball, not Josh Jackson, but Jayson Tatum.

Standing at 6’9” with a 6’11” wingspan and weighing roughly 205 lbs, Tatum has a lean, lanky body that’s expected to fill out during the duration of his career. Tatum has the physical profile to become an effective two-way versatile player, and the Celtics have already told him such. “We like his size, length, rebounding, shooting, his character. There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s a terrific player.” This is what Coach Ainge had to say about Tatum.

Tatum played high school basketball at Chaminade College Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, Missouri and was ranked as a five-star recruit. He picked Duke University and only played in a single college season before deciding to enter the NBA Draft. In 29 games, the 6-8 small forward averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, with a .452 field goal percentage. He started all but two games he played.

Tatum is a three-time gold medalist with USA Basketball and a three-time Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year. He has also starred in the early-spring All-Star circuit, McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago, Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon, Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, New York. He has played up in age so often in his basketball life, his ascension to the professional game seems almost set in stone.

This journey was certainly not an easy one for Tatum and his family. They were faced with many obstacles that needed to be overcome. A prime example is his mother, Brandy Cole. She had to pass up on Volleyball scholarship to Tennessee when she found out she was pregnant. Jayson was born when she was just 19 years old. At the time, she was still in college, but refused to drop out. She even took her young son with her to classes when she couldn’t afford a babysitter or his grandmother was working.

By the time he was in sixth grade, she had gotten her bachelor’s and law degrees from St. Louis University. Tatum wrote that his mother was a major influence on his life, helping him with homework, inspiring him to do volunteer work, and shaped him to be a better person off the court. “Whatever I was doing off the court, she said, was just as important as the numbers I was putting up on it,” Tatum wrote.

When he was a little boy he would leave Post-It notes on the bathroom mirror for Brandy Cole, telling his mom he loved her, wishing her a good day. “She’s my best friend,” Tatum told ESPN. “I’m the biggest mama’s boy ever, and I’m proud to say it.”

Jayson’s father, Justin Tatum was also a basketball player. Justin never played in the NBA, but he did play in college and professionally overseas. Jayson was in third grade when Justin decided to come home from Amsterdam. He gave up his dream and began to coach his son. They hit things off from there, with Justin coaching and Jayson routinely playing kids two or three years older.

Justin never played in the NBA, but he did play in college and professionally overseas.

Justin Tatum was previously the coach and athletics director at Soldan International Studies High School for six years. Currently, he is the gym teacher and basketball coach at Christian Brothers College (CBC) High School in St. Louis. Justin is also a graduate of the school, graduating in 1997. CBC are rivals of Jayson’s Chaminade College Preparatory School. Jayson has even played against his father’s team several times in his four years High School.

Larry Hughes has been a mentor, an uncle and a soundboard throughout Tatum’s journey. When Hughes played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and worked out with LeBron James, he brought Tatum along.

“His basketball IQ is incredibly high, like LeBron’s,” Hughes said. “His size reminds me of Kevin Durant. His offensive game reminds me of Carmelo Anthony’s. Jayson has that jab step; he plays so well with the live dribble. If you can put all those guys together and mix it up, you have a superstar.”

It’s safe to say he has been well-schooled. And he’s ready for what comes next.

Image courtesy of: Campus Sports Net

* Originally published on July 9, 2017, by Michael Pizzuti

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