Harry Giles III was so pumped to be playing again in a high school basketball game that he made a freshman mistake, eating just a few hours before the first game of the season for No. 2-ranked Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) on Nov. 11.
“He was so excited that first game that he didn’t sleep the night before and had a cookout burger and some other food about 4:30 in the afternoon before our game,” Wesleyan Christian coach Keith Gatlin said. “He ended up cramping up and not playing but three minutes in the fourth quarter. We laughed about it later.”
Giles had an off-night, scoring only 14 points against New Hope Christian (Thomasville), but rest assured, the former freshman player of the year is back from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee while playing for USA Basketball in the summer of 2013 and missing last season at Wesleyan.
The 6-9 junior power forward made that clear in Wesleyan’s second game, when he scored 41 points and had 19 rebounds in a 82-60 defeat of Northside Christian Academy (Charlotte) on Friday. Giles is one of five juniors on the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Preseason Boys Basketball Team.
“I was never concerned about him coming back,” Gatlin said. “A lot of people don’t see how much work Harry puts into his game and body. Sometimes I have to tell him to spend some time to be a normal young man.”
Wesleyan Christian, led by Theo Pinson, now at xxxx, won the 3A title last season as Giles watched with his injury.
“I love to play, so it was tough to sit on the sidelines and not play, because I am competitive,” Giles said this summer. “I have been injured a lot, unfortunately. But I had never been out that long. I never really got to thank everybody that helped me, like my close friends and my family. You find out who your real friends are when you’re hurt. My teammates and my coaches picked me up.”
Giles is less tentative with his knee than he was this summer, when he averaged 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds a game for USA Basketball’s team that won the FIBA U17 World Championship.
Gatlin, a former North Carolina state player of the year at Conley (Greenville) in 1983, played at Maryland from 1984-88 and for several years professionally. Like Giles, he also had to come back from a knee injury, when he tore his ACL as a pro.
“The silver lining for Harry is he hurt himself when he was only a sophomore and he’s so young, he heals so quickly,” Gatlin said. “I tore my ACL when I was 27 or 28 and I had to work extremely hard for nine to 12 months. I spent time with Harry doing hot yoga, to keep him flexible. He put a lot of time in the pool, on the bike and in the weight room.”
What makes Giles special is his mobility, athleticism and shooting touch make him a matchup nightmare. He has a wingspan of 7-3, a standing reach of 9-1 and has hands that look like catchers’ mitts.
“Harry can really pass the basketball and that has made the transition easier for this year’s team,” Gatlin said. “He’s thinking pass first and can see the play before it develops. A lot of what he has is God-given talent. He has great guard skills for someone who is 6-10 (in shoes) and once he grabs a basketball, it’s like he’s grabbing a grapefruit or a baseball. It’s impossible to take it from him.”