With everything Harry Giles has been through, it's difficult to believe he's technically still a child. Giles doesn't turn 18 years old until April, but the player widely considered to be the No. 1 basketball recruit in the class of 2016 has already experienced the type of incredible highs and traumatic lows typically reserved for 10-year NBA veterans.
Giles has seen the world because of his prodigious talent, winning three gold medals with USA Basketball in Uruguay, Dubai and Greece. He's made high-profile friends like Chris Paul, the Clippers star who sponsors the Nike grassroots team Giles spent his last few summers playing on.
He's a teenager comfortable enough with nation-wide exposure that he decided to announce his college decision live on SportsCenter Friday afternoon. That's where he told the world he'll be joining a loaded Duke recruiting class that includes ESPN's No. 3 player Jayson Tatum and five-star guard Frank Jackson.
But Giles also knows how painful basketball can be. His college choice comes one day after he was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered in the first two minutes of his first game at prep powerhouse Oak Hill. After what Giles had already overcome in his high school career, this injury barely registers as a setback.
Giles learned the hard reality of how crushing the sport can be when he arrived in Uruguay for the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Giles, who had just finished his freshman year of high school, tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in a game against Argentina. He's spent the last two years fighting to return to the same athletic marvel he was before the injury, and he had finally gotten there.
So if the player that was tabbed as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2016 by ESPN was Harry Giles 2.0, the player Duke is getting will be Harry Giles 3.0. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, because the Winston-Salem, N.C. native just seems to be getting better and better.
Physically, Giles has the look of an NBA All-Star at 17. He stands 6'10, blessed with a 7'3 wingspan. He has a solid 230-pound frame that's strong enough to anchor a team's defense and control the glass. He's boundless athletically, capable of running the floor like a guard or flying out of the gym to make a play above the rim.
Perhaps best of all, anyone who scouts Giles seems to agree his best attribute is his motor. No one is going to have to teach Harry Giles how to play hard. He comes preset as a relentless two-way player who won't back down against bigger and older competition.
Giles proved the last point emphatically this past summer playing two grade levels up at the FIBA U19 World Championships. Giles was one of four high school players on the team (along with Tatum, Josh Jackson and Terrence Ferguson) and might have been coach Sean Miller's best player at both ends of the floor on the way to another gold medal.
Giles tied for the team lead by averaging 14 points per game, and led the tournament in rebounding by pulling down 10.6 boards per contest. USA Basketball finished +88 in his 21.2 minutes per night across seven games.
Giles showed off the total package for a young front court player. He was noticeably more athletic any other big man in the tournament:
He was a great rebounder and selfless passer:
His lateral quickness and length made him a presence defensively:
During a time when college players of Giles' caliber are almost universally spending only one season in school, it doesn't feel too soon to start projecting how his game translate to the NBA. DraftExpress already has him pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
That 2017 draft should be stacked, because the class of 2016 is considered to be the strongest in some time. There's been a lot of exciting talent coming through the high school ranks lately, but it's possible the best players in 2016 are even better than the 2013 class (with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon) and the 2014 class (with Karl-Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay, D'Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor).
If Giles is only going to be in college for a year, he's putting himself in the best possible position to win the NCAA championship. Duke's 2016 class was signed just months after four freshman scored 60 of the team's 68 points in the title game to clinch the national championship over Wisconsin. All four of those players were McDonald's All-Americans, and three of them were first-round picks after one year of college.
Duke's 2016 class feels every bit as good as the group led by Okafor a year ago. Tatum is an incredibly polished player as a 6'8 wing with a deadly mid-range game and a scorer's instinct that can't be taught. Jackson, a 6'3 combo guard from Utah, adds shooting and athleticism in the backcourt. There's also Javin DeLaurier, a top 50 power forward. And Coach K still has his eyes on a few more five-stars, like center Marques Bolden.
Mike Krzyzewski is connecting with kids better than ever as he nears his 70th birthday. Duke is becoming every bit the one-and-done factory that John Calipari has built at Kentucky, with players like Giles becoming the new defining image of the program.
Giles has already proven he can come back from a far more devastating injury. If he can do it again, he'll be a household name in the NBA before you know it. Life comes at you fast for top basketball recruits, and Harry Giles knows that better than anyone.