NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Two of the top three basketball recruits in the Class of 2016 are thinking about playing together in college and Kentucky is on both of their lists of finalists – but the Wildcats are not considered favorites for power forward Harry Giles III and small forward Jayson Tatum.
“We definitely gotta make the right decision for both of us. If it’s the same school, it’s a blessing,” Giles said Thursday night at Peach Jam. “We’ll see. I think it’s a high chance.”
The 6-10 Giles, widely regarded as the top rising senior in the country, said if the two are in fact a package deal, the choice would be one of their shared finalists: North Carolina, Duke or Kentucky. The Blue Devils are the popular pick.
If they go their own way, Tatum, a 6-8 St. Louis native, said he’s seriously considering the hometown Billikens.
“It’s definitely real,” he said. “A lot of people don’t expect me to have Saint Louis on my list … but I love my hometown, I love the school. I love the players, the program, the people that work there, the atmosphere. I’ve visited SLU numerous times and it’s a strong possibility that I go there.”
He is also acutely aware of how well the “package deal” thing worked out for Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones at Duke last season.
“When you see something like that, two great players team up – along with Justice Winslow and other guys like that – they had one goal in mind, and they accomplished that, and they had fun doing it,” Tatum said. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
Tatum and Giles also just won gold together for Team USA at the U19 World Championships in Greece last week.
“Harry is one of my best friends and he’s a great player,” he said. “We’ve known each other since we were 11. Playing USA Basketball, we had a lot of down time to talk about things like that. First, we gotta see what schools accommodate things that we want individually, and then after that … it could possibly happen.”
So should John Calipari and the Wildcats hold out any hope? Both Tatum and Giles said Thursday that UK remains in contention. Giles called UK “definitely a huge factor.” His father, Harry Giles Jr., reiterated that Friday.
“They’re still in the mix. We love Calipari. Love Calipari. Love the program and everything,” he said, shooting down the notion that there is a favorite. “All the coaches that’s walked in the gym that’s on that list is a favorite.”