After sitting out Duke’s first eight games due to injury, Tatum has proven himself worthy of all the hype.
In last night’s game against Elon University, Jayson Tatum dropped 18 points while also grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. On a night where he wasn’t as efficient as usual, Tatum was able to find other ways to contribute. Despite only recording three official assists in the stat sheet, he was able to distribute the ball well to his teammates, as many of his passes led to an extra pass and an easy basket.
Nights like this are becoming the norm for the freshman superstar. In his six games since returning from an ankle sprain, Tatum has averaged nearly 15 points per game to go along with 7.5 rebounds a game. His early success has not gone unnoticed, as he was named the Freshman Player of the Week only three games into his collegiate career.
His big performance on December 6 against the Florida Gators contributed greatly to that honor. Under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, one of the world’s most famous arenas, Tatum carried the Blue Devils to a 10-point win while shooting 7 for 12 from the floor for 22 points and also adding eight rebounds. You could say that game was a coming-out party of sorts for the kid from St. Louis.
"“I was excited. I was in the moment and my teammates got me hyped and ready to play.” – Jayson Tatum following Duke’s 84-74 victory over Florida."
The Blue Devils are sitting at 12-1 and hold the number 5 spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball rankings. Duke being near the top of the college basketball world is nothing new, but one could argue that the talent on this year’s roster is greater than any team head coach Mike Krzyzewski has led. With five national championships on his resume, that’s saying something.
With upperclassmen like Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, and Amile Jefferson leading the way, Duke’s freshman class–the nation’s top recruiting class–was able to transition to the collegiate level with little pressure on their shoulders.
Guys like Tatum, along with point guard Frank Jackson, can step onto the court and learn from the players that have been there before without having to alter their game or try and do too much. Oh, and not to mention Harry Giles will soon coming back from an injury as well. Giles was the only prospect ranked ahead of Tatum this past offseason and has Duke basketball fans even more excited for March Madness this spring.
With so much talent and arguably the best college basketball coach of all time, Duke could be primed for a historic season. That means hometown hero Jayson Tatum will get plenty of chances to shine in the spotlight, and if what he has done thus far is any indication, I’m sure he won’t disappoint.