From many, there will be one. And while there’s still no guarantee contending athletes will win their own state at this point in the season, a number of elite performers are making a case for Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year consideration. Here’s the scoop on the latest top candidate.
Junior guard/forward, Chaminade Prep (St. Louis, Mo.)
Greatness Present: He remains several weeks shy of his 17th birthday, and already Jayson Tatum is being hailed as perhaps the greatest prep basketball player ever to emerge from St. Louis.
Let that sink in for a minute. It’s a remarkable statement. Not only because the 6-foot-8, 190-pound wing is barely old enough to drive a car, but also since there are already two former Gatorade Missouri Boys Basketball Players of the Year from Tatum’s own school who are currently starring on championship-caliber NBA teams.
Chaminade Prep alumnus David Lee, the State POY in 2000-01, is a two-time NBA All-Star who has averaged double-digit points in each of his last eight seasons and is scoring 9.8 points per game this season for the high-flying Golden State Warriors. Washington Wizards starting shooting guard Bradley Beal, meanwhile, captured Gatorade National Player of the Year honors as a Chaminade senior in 2010-11.
Already a Gatorade Missouri Boys Basketball Player of the Year in his own right, Tatum has a chance to top both Lee and Beal should he repeat as Gatorade State POY this season. As the top-ranked junior in the nation, he has averaged 28.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season, leading the Flyers to an 11-4 start. Most recently, he collected 25 points and 14 rebounds in a high-profile matchup against Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.
Tatum is growing accustomed to the spotlight, having dropped 39 points in an 88-81 win over reigning Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and nationally ranked Lincolnshire (Ill.) Stevenson earlier this month. He followed with a 34-point effort in a 77-75 overtime loss to Chicago St. Rita in the Highland Shootout.
Next stop for Tatum? Perhaps a reunion with his Chaminade brethren Messrs. Lee and Beals in the NBA. OK, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. But given the high level at which he’s been playing and the legendary names who have been taking notice, it’s a scenario that may not be terribly far-fetched in the not-too-distant future.
Greatness Past: During his POY campaign last season, Tatum averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds per game as a sophomore, leading Chaminade to the 2014 Class 5 district finals. Also a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team, he averaged 10 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest during the squad’s 5-0 run to a gold medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Uruguay.
Greatness Future: As were Lee and Beal, Tatum is being heavily recruited by a who’s who of Division I college basketball programs, including Duke, Kansas, Florida, Kentucky and a boatload of others.
Make no mistake: The Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year races aren’t over, and the National POY race is now heating up. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Check back for daily updates on the top contenders making their case.