While attending the University of North Carolina, Justin Jackson remembers Harry Giles visiting when he was in high school. From those visits, Jackson recalls Giles being a “monster” on the basketball floor. While at Oak Hill and Wesleyan Christian Academies, Giles earned a First Team All-USA selection by USA Today and as a junior in 2015, averaged 23.9 points and 12.5 rebounds. He later was rated the No. 1 overall recruit in his class by ESPN, as well as No. 2 overall by Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports.
He would go on to attend Duke University, but a string of injuries (ACL tears in both knees and an MCL tear in his left knee) put a damper on that hype. Duke would end up playing him sparingly (11.5 minutes per game), but he did manage to log six points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes against Jackson’s Tar Heels.
The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is strong, but it is in the rear-view mirror now for Jackson and Giles. They both find themselves as NBA rookies with the Sacramento Kings. While the 22-year-old Jackson went on to win a national championship with North Carolina, get drafted by the Kings with the 15th pick (draft rights from the Portland Trailblazers) and have a good outing in this year’s NBA Summer League, Giles has been focused on getting his body back to normal after the Kings drafted him with the 20th pick (draft rights from the Portland Trailblazers). Giles’ last knee procedure took place in October 2016. Part of his recovery included not playing in the Summer League because the team and himself wanted to ease back into things.
As Kings training camp has kicked off, Jackson has been observing Giles and thinks his fellow rookie is returning to his old form.
“Harry looks like he’s back … his explosiveness and everything like definitely looks like it’s back,” Jackson said on Media Day. “He’ll have some plays, where I guess they call them ‘wow’ plays, and that’s just who Harry is. So, I’m glad to see him back, comfortable on the court.”
On Kings Media Day, the 19-year-old Giles said he has been cleared to play and is ready.
“I’m feeling great. I’ve been taking my time out here, and they’ve [the Kings] taken their time with me and just working with me,” said the 6’10”, 240-pound Giles. “I’m a competitor, I’m a basketball player, I wanted to play [in Summer League], I wanted to be out on the floor, but at the same time, I had to think long-term and bigger picture.”
Based on what Kings forward Zach Randolph had to say on Media Day, the bigger picture for Giles would appear to be pretty bright.
“I’ve been watching him a little bit … from what I’ve seen, All-Star potential,” Randolph said.
With praise like that, comparisons to Chris Webber and him demonstrating the ability to hit a jump shot, the anticipation of seeing Giles on the floor continues to build. Head coach Dave Joerger commented on how the adjustment period for Giles could go this season.
“He’s a talented guy so it’ll be interesting to see. He’s been working hard in individual workouts and as you put things in, how quickly he can grasp on to those things. And then as you add structure, sometimes athleticism goes away for a little bit until you; OK my mind knows exactly, naturally where to go,” Joerger said. “Everything is brand new for Harry and for a lot of these young guys, and so it just takes a minute for them catch on and then their athleticism comes back.”
It would be pretty safe to assume that Giles will spend some time with the Reno Bighorns this season, but the first Kings preseason game is Monday, so maybe we will get to see Giles on the floor for the first time.