North Augusta, S.C. — The first day of Nike’s Peach Jam is usually pretty tame. Typically, the way it works is that Wednesday is dedicated to the 16-year olds, but with The Family and Team CP3 finding themselves tied in the standings after four EYBL events, it set up a play-in game for the right to continue in the event.
Win or go home, and for Harry Giles, that meant 32 minutes to put on a performance that would allow him team to continue on in the event. And Giles, the No. 2 player in the Class of 2016, per Rivals, turned in a performance worthy of advancing.
Giles finished with 21 points, 15 boards — at least half of which came on the offensive end of the floor — and a pair of blocks.
Those numbers become all the more impressive when you consider that Giles is just 13 months removed from a devastating knee injury where he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
“I’m playing in a brace, but it feels like I’mmnot,” Giles told NBCSports after the win. “I know it’s going to take time, but at the same time it’s starting to feel like it used to feel.”
“It’s the month of July, so I’m pushing [myself]. I have to play hard. This game meant a lot. Win or go home.”
The majority of Giles’ damage was done around the rim, as he has the size, length and massive hands to be a dominant player around the rim. He’s also a better passer than he gets credit for, but he struggled a bit early on with finishing around the rim. But the fact that he was as dominant as he was against The Family is a testament to the work that Giles has put in to rehab his knee.
“I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am,” Giles said. He was able to return to the court in May, playing in two of the EYBL events before taking a month off from games to work on getting the strength and explosiveness back in his lower body. Perhaps more importantly, Giles has gotten past the mental block that often comes for an athlete after suffering a serious injury.
“I’ve got confidence in [my knee],” he added, saying that he estimates he is currently playing between 85-90%.
As far as his recruitment is concerned, the schools that were after him before the injury are still on his trail. The Winston-Salem native listed Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, UNLV, North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest when asked who was recruiting him the hardest of late.
If Giles has taken anything out of the injury, it’s that he appreciates what the sport he loves more than ever.
“I don’t really take anything for granted anymore,” he said. “I just love to play basketball.”
Alterique Gilbert was the game-changer: Giles was the guy that everyone came to see play, but the real difference-maker for CP3in their win over The Family was Alterique Gilbert, a 6-foot point guard that is ranked 92nd in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. Gilbert changed the game early in the second half, sparking a massive run by CP3, as they turned a 16-point first half deficit into a 10-point second half lead and, eventually, a 70-59 win. He’s a waterbug with the ball in his hands, making the large crowd that showed for the game ooh-and-add a number of times with his ability to cross people over. His perimeter jumper leaves something to be desired, but it’s clear watching Gilbert play why he currently lists offers from Auburn, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Miami, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.
Jayson Tatum goes crazy: The way the EYBL works is that they hold four events during the spring in which each team that participates in the league has a chance to earn their way into Peach Jam. Tatum plays for the St. Louis Eagles, who failed to qualify. But the No. 4 player in the Class of 2016 was allowed to participate in the event with the U16 team, and he put on a show on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t fair.
Tatum finished with 29 points in a win over Team Final, absolutely dominating overmatched opponents in his age group. With Roy Williams and, among many others, a pair of Duke assistants — Jon Scheyer and Nate James — watching, it’s quite obvious why Tatum is ranked as high as he is.
Brian Bowen is a name to watch: The player that turned the most heads outside of Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles on Wednesday night in North Augusta was Bowen, a 6-foot-6 forward from Saginaw, Mich., that plays for The Family 16s. Bowen, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017, is a lithe, silky forward that made a number of gorgeous moves slithering through the lane and finishing around the rim. A first cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, Bowen already boasts offers from the likes of Michigan State and Missouri, among others.