Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, North Carolina isn’t known as a basketball factory. In fact, it isn’t a basketball factory. The school is one of the richest academically in the area and looks nicer than many of the D-3 colleges I went and visited back in the day. Still, they’ve been pumping out talent that rivals any school in North Carolina. First it was current Florida State wing Montay Brandon, then top-50 juniors Theo Pinson and JaQuel Richmond took over the reigns. However, they’re not without an understudy. Meet 6-9 freshman Harry Giles.
We had the chance to meet this young giant at the Winston-Salem YMCA where he was training with Kenneth Bates of LAAB Work. Bates, who has worked with the likes of Chris Paul and Josh Howard, couldn’t be more thrilled about his 14-year-old pupil. With the size (6-9 and some change) and body (already 225 pounds) of a grown man, Giles has the strength of a big man with the perimeter skills of a wing. This versatility has allowed for him to be a jack-of-all trades for WCA so far this season.
“We like to play him at the 3 or the 4 for us because he can create so many mismatch problems, but we can play him anywhere,” Wesleyan head coach Keith Gatlin explained. “We like to push Harry as much as possible, because like you said, he’s a baby. He’s 14.”
Bates echoed Maryland’s second all-time leading assist man by telling us, “The objective with Harry is to make him a complete ball-player. What I mean by that is a ball player without position.”
Having heard an earful from two of the more respected minds in the state and having heard rumors of the 6-9 man-child, it was time to see if all of the hype was justified. Most major recruiting outlets had pegged him as the top player at the USA U-16 tryouts in Colorado Springs, despite being two years younger than some of players there. Upon entering the gym, it was impossible not to be taken back by this physical specimen who had the body of an NBA player mixed in with the innocence and humility of a regular player who was just working on his game. Bates, who rocks a kiniesiology degree in addition to his basketball expertise, put Giles through a grueling two hour workout to show us that all of the hype was justified and we left with no doubts in our mind.
Bates got things started by having Giles go through a series of plyometric drills not only to get loose, but also to increase coordination. He did a lot of balance work with his prodigy—who wears size 17 sneakers. Once loose, the forward went through a series of ball handling and shooting drills with a myriad of variables. There were parachutes, MMA pads, and blockers to not only create resistance, but simulate game situations. Then there were stabilization balls and shooting tools to work on his shot to go along with the power plates that Bates had Harry jumping off of and dunking. Throughout this process, I often had to remind myself that I was watching a 14-year-old complete drills with more explosion than a lot of the guys I watched train for the NBA Draft. The natural power that Giles had was that of a thoroughbred, but he showed off some skills too.
Going through a myriad of drills on (and off) the court, we were able to see how advanced Giles was. The trainer had his understudy go and perform dribbling drills in a dance studio surrounded by four walls of mirrors, so that he could watch himself dribble at all times while keeping his head up. Not to be without his tools, Bates clubbed the prodigy as he handled the rock with control. To end things off, Harry was put through some full court drills on the hardwood where we were able to see how his handle translated and how he was able to shoot the ball. Add in some work on an inversion table, power plate stretching, and recovery shake and the workout was a wrap.
Looking at the big picture, it’s easy to see why Giles is right there in the argument with guys like Thon Maker and DeRon Davis for top player in the class of 2016 class. It’s not often that you catch 6-9 guys of any age who can handle the ball the way he can and while we’re not ready to don him the next Lamar Odom, the potential is unquestionably there for him to develop into a 3 down the road. With talent like that and the clear passion that he has for the game, it’s no coincidence that Kentucky, UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest have already been recruiting him hard. He’s been putting in work for one of the top teams in the state and his package of size and skill have drawn comparisons to Chris Webber, but that’s not what sets him apart.
“What makes Harry so special is that he’s player who can play multiple positions on the floor. You don’t find guys 6-foot-9 with the agility and talent that he has,” Bates exclaimed after the marathon workout. “However, what truly makes Harry special is his humility. He truly gets it.”