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Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum Works His Way Onto Fourth USA Roster

  • Date:
    Feb 29, 2016

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Looking at 6-foot-7, three-time USA Basketball gold medalist Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep/St. Louis, Mo.) as a high school senior in 2016, it is hard to imagine him as an elementary school student who hadn’t yet realized how much he would go on to accomplish.

That is exactly where he was, however, when another USA Basketball gold medalist and current NBA player Bradley Beal opened his eyes to future possibilities.

Tatum attends the same high school that Beal did, Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis, Missouri, and he was a fan of Beal long before the rest of the country became aware of Beal’s talents.

“I’ve been watching Brad since I was in elementary school,” said Tatum. “He is like a big brother/mentor to me. He’s always helped me out, and I’m just excited to see how he has grown over the years, and he looks forward to me becoming a better player and person.”

A shared alma mater is not all the two have in common. Beal won a FIBA Americas U16 Championship gold medal in 2009 and FIBA U17 World Championship in 2010. Tatum won U16 gold in 2013, U17 gold in 2014 and then went on to collect a gold medal in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.

Beal also played for USA Basketball in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit, while Tatum will play on the USA Junior National Select Team in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

“He is the person I looked up to,” Tatum explained of Beal. “I knew that he was great in high school and that he was going to be a great player. I wanted to accomplish some, if not more, of the same things that he did. I had goals and aspirations of playing USA Basketball, because that’s how I found out about USA Basketball, when Brad played. He was on the first U16 and U17 teams and in the Nike Hoop Summit. To see him grow up and play in those events, then go to college and the NBA, really helped me get the mindset that if that’s what I wanted to be, I had to really work at it.”

Tatum has become comfortable with the concept of working hard.

“It is really a mindset that you have to have,” Tatum said. “I can’t speak for everybody, but I know for myself, I want to be considered as the best. I know that takes an extreme amount of hard work and dedication to be considered as the best or be at the top. I have to realize what it takes to be at the top.

“Every morning, Monday through Friday, and even on the weekends sometimes, I get to school about 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. to work out.

“Like most guys around the country, I have dreams, and goals and aspirations, and nothing comes easy,” Tatum said. “I just want to take every advantage that I have.”

It wasn’t only Beal’s example that clarified the path to success for Tatum. His USA Basketball experiences reinforced the importance of focus and commitment.

Including his three previous USA Basketball teams, Tatum has taken part in five USA Basketball training camps at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, since his first camp in October 2012.

“Probably just the work ethic; the amount of work that goes into preparing and training and just trying to make that team,” Tatum responded when asked if there was an overall lesson he had learned throughout his time with USA Basketball. “Everybody that comes out there is extremely talented in the their own different ways. But to make that 12-player selection for a team, you really have to assert yourself everyday in practice. Keeping up your intensity and not giving up and pushing yourself to keep excelling.”

Tatum’s most recent USA Basketball team was the USA U19 World Championship Team that won a gold medal in Crete, Greece, after an overtime win against Croatia in the gold medal game. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Tatum played in all seven games, averaged a team third-best 13.9 points per game to go along with 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game, and he shot 48.8 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point.

“First and foremost, just winning the gold medal and that feeling that I had along with my teammates,” Tatum responded when asked what comes to mind when he thinks back to this past summer’s experience. “Everything that we went through and coming out on top was just the best feeling.”

One of Tatum’s 15 assists during the FIBA U19 World Championship went to his future Duke University teammate Harry Giles (Forest Trail Academy/Winston-Salem, N.C.) for a fast-break dunk that ranked No. 7 on FIBA’s top-ten highlights video from the event, and his one-handed slam over a Croatian defender in the gold medal game was FIBA’s No. 1 play from the tournament.

“I definitely think that my USA experience, playing in 2013 and 2014, helped me out a lot,” said Tatum of his U19 experience. “There were guys older than me, but that was their first time (with USA Basketball). They brought experience by being older, but me and some of the other younger guys knew what to expect going against other countries and teams that we would be faced up against. We kind of helped them out with some things to look out for.”

In addition to Giles, Tatum was joined on the U19 team by two more of his U16, U17 and now-Nike Hoop Summit teammates in Terrance Ferguson (Advanced Prep International/Dallas, Texas) and Josh Jackson (Justin-Siena Catholic H.S./Prolific Prep Academy/Southfield, Mich.). (Giles will attend the Nike Hoop Summit as an honorary team caption but cannot play due to injury.) The group of four players is 19-0 in major international competition.

“It helps a lot, just in terms of the chemistry I think,” Tatum said of his teammates. “Just being familiar with the guys that you are playing with and playing for always makes it easier.

“I think it is going to be a competitive game. There are a lot of talented guys from other countries. They are going to be athletic. It should be a good matchup.”

The USA will be looking for a win after losing three of the past four Nike Hoop Summits, something Tatum is well aware of.

“That’s what is most important: winning. I feel like we have a great group of guys that were selected and the coaching staff as well. We are going to have to work hard at it, but I feel like we can accomplish a win.

“I’ve been watching the Nike Hoop Summit as long as I can remember. Just the great players and the history that goes along with it, just being a part of it means so much.”

Don’t miss Tatum and his USA teammates in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit and get your tickets now:

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