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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / April 28.
  • Jayson Tatum Enjoys Coming Out Party in Front of NBA Scouts in Jimmy V Classic

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    NEW YORK –– If people in the basketball world were wondering just how Duke would look once they started getting their star-studded freshmen class on the floor, Jayson Tatum gave them a pretty good idea on a national stage on Tuesday night.

    The 6-foot-8 freshman forward looked silky smooth in going for 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as No. 5 Duke handled No. 21 Florida, 84-74, in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. You wouldn’t have known that he went down with a foot sprain during an NBA Pro Day back in October.

    Tatum, currently the projected No. 6 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com, put on a show in front of former Duke and current Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving and a slew of NBA personnel at the Garden.

    At one stage, Tatum hit back-to-back shots, including a fadeaway jumper, in front of Irving, whose Cavs will face the Knicks on Wednesday night at the Garden.

    “Yeah man, I was excited, I was in the moment,” Tatum said. “My teammates got me hyped. I heard Kyrie talking to me so it was just a good moment for me.”

    What did Kyrie say?

    “He just told me, ‘Keep going,'” said Tatum, who dressed at Carmelo Anthony’s locker in the Knicks locker room. “My teammates told me keep going and that was it.”

    Tatum’s performance came on a night when Amile Jefferson went for a career-high 24 points and 15 rebounds and Luke Kennard went off for 29 points. The trio combined for 75 of Duke’s 84 points, and it marked the first time since 2001 that three Duke players scored 22 points or more.

    And while most everyone was talking about Jefferson and Kennard, Jefferson came away impressed with Tatum.

    “It was amazing that second half he came back to who he was, the guy that we’ve seen for the first four months of being together,” Jefferson said of Tatum. “And it was great for him tonight to come out here, play as well as he did and just let it all out. He was not a freshman.”

    Tatum was playing in just his second game after debuting on Saturday against Maine with 10 points and 8 rebounds.

    “I would say his ceiling is high, but I don’t even think he has a ceiling,” Jefferson said. “Guys haven’t seen how great he can be. He’s a guy who can score with ease at a high rate and be real efficient doing it. And then he’s a player who’s aggressive, who wants to win, consumed with winning. So to have him back adds an unbelievable dynamic to our team.

    “We are really lucky to have him on our side and to have him healthy and I’m excited that he’s back.”

    Said Tatum: “I mean, it’s only my second game so I’m just really trying to get adjusted to the speed. I haven’t played yet until last Saturday and today so I still gotta get back in shape. But I’m just happy to be out here, just playing basketball, I’ve been sitting out a while.”

    As if all that weren’t enough good news for Duke, 6-10 freshman Harry Giles could debut before Christmas.

    “Yeah, myself and ‘Ques [Marques Bolden] are playing now, we’re still waiting on Harry,” Tatum said. “We’re just waiting for everybody to get 100 percent. We don’t want anybody to come out here not all the way. But I can’t wait to get Harry back.

    “Hopefully [we’ll be] very tough. We have so many offensive weapons. We just all like being around each other, playing with each other, so we’re going to be unselfish, find open guys and if somebody’s hot we’re just going to keep going to them. And we just gotta play defense.”

    Photo: USA Today

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.