UK Recruiting

UK prospect Tatum back in Lexington for Shootout at Catholic

The top coaches in college basketball were gathered in a Florida gym in the summer of 2012, watching some of the best high school prospects in the country.

John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self were in the stands. Andrew and Aaron Harrison were among the players on the court.

It was a pretty standard scene for summer basketball recruiting, but it was all new to budding St. Louis star Jayson Tatum and his mother, Brandy Cole.

"We saw Coach Cal, Coach Self and Coach K. And we were kind of in awe," Cole said. "And then, a year later, they were coming to watch Jayson in the summertime. It was definitely an amazing experience. We laugh about it now. Sometimes we're just sitting around the house and I say, 'If someone would have told you this a year ago, would you have believed them?'

"This last year has been truly amazing."

It's included stops on the Nike traveling circuit, a trip to Uruguay — where Tatum helped the Team USA junior squad win a gold medal — and even a visit to Lexington for Big Blue Madness.

The journey continues Saturday with another stop in the Bluegrass, this time for the Goodfellas Pizzeria National Shootout at Lexington Catholic.

Tatum just began his sophomore season of high school a few weeks ago, is still two months away from his 16th birthday, and he's already one of the most coveted recruits in the country. ranks the 6-foot-7 wing as the No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2016 and the No. 10 recruit regardless of class.

"He's an elite-level wing," Scout analyst Evan Daniels recently told the Herald-Leader. "He shoots the ball pretty well off the catch from three. He's really developed a mid-range game. He has all the intangibles you look for in a wing prospect. He can defend the position well, he rebounds well out of that spot. ... I'm a big, big fan."

Tatum has early scholarship offers from UK, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Florida and just about every other major school you can think of.

One of the first steps in his recruiting process was an October trip to Lexington, where Cole and Tatum took in a UK practice and Big Blue Madness in the same day.

Cole had an "amazing" time, recalling UK fans waiting outside Rupp Arena who knew who her 15-year-old son was, many wanting pictures, autographs or simply to shake his hand.

"They definitely have one of the best fan bases ever," she said. "It definitely made him feel real welcome."

Tatum called it a "great experience" and enjoyed "seeing how crazy the fans are."

He also liked watching Calipari run practice.

"He challenges his players, even though he has (seven) McDonald's All-Americans," Tatum said. "He doesn't just let them coast through practice. He pushes them hard each play. I want a coach that wants me to get better each and every practice. And wants my teammates to push me and challenge me."

Cole, who describes herself as Tatum's biggest fan and his No. 1 critic, also approved of Calipari's "stern" coaching style. "It was an intense practice, and it was a good thing for us to see," she said.

Tatum and his family talk about his college recruitment on a regular basis, Cole said, but the young prospect is in no rush to make a decision. He doesn't have a top five or a top 10, and Cole pointed out that college coaches aren't even allowed to call him on the phone until later this year.

In the meantime, Tatum will continue to improve his game, navigate the process and see what new opportunities arise.

"I think he's done a very good job," Cole said. She said one of the best compliments she has received as a parent is that people always tell her how humble and mannerly he is. "I try to keep him grounded. There is so much more to be accomplished, and there's so much more work to be done.

"So, while it is very exciting and it's a blessing and we're very grateful for all of the opportunities that he's gotten thus far, we have not made it. We haven't accomplished all of our goals."


Goodfellas Pizzeria Shootout at Lexington Catholic

5 p.m.: Simon Kenton vs. Perry Co. Central

6:30 p.m.: Lexington Catholic vs. Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.)

8 p.m.: Lincoln Co. vs. Taylor Co.

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