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Giles The Great: A Look At Duke Freshman Harry Giles

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After his second torn ACL, Harry Giles is looking to dispel the worries and stake his claim as the best freshman in college basketball.

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In late October 2015, it seemed like nothing could stop Harry Giles. The 6’11 forward looked ready to start his senior season at Oak Hill Academy as the near unanimous #1 prospect in the class of 2016. Just a few months prior, Giles helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Championships, putting up 14 points and 10.7 rebounds (3.5 offensive) on 46% from the field in 21 minutes per game. That solid performance combined with everything else he’s done over his high school career led to the entire high school hoops world watching him.

However that optimism quickly turned into despair as Giles tore his right ACL within the first 3 minutes of his debut game with Oak Hill Academy. That injury puts concern around Giles, as the young forward tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee right before his sophomore season at Wesleyan Academy.

While he’d commit to join Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils on the day following that torn ACL, Giles unfortunately had to spend his senior season on the sidelines while other top high school prospects rised into the spotlight. Players like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball flourished in the high school ranks while Giles remained hidden as he rehabbed that torn ACL.

Despite that absence and subsequent rise of other top-notch high school prospects, Giles still stood at the top of the heap according to most scouts. For example, Giles was ranked #1 by Future150, #3 from 27Sports, and #1 on ESPN’s Top 100 rankings.

That acclaim is much deserved as Giles really stood as the prototypical example of what teams, whether they be NBA or college, look for in a power forward. Giles has a terrific frame for an 18-year-old forward has he stands 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan and a solid 225 pound frame. Coinciding with that, Giles stood as a terrific athlete, as he combined excellent agility and explosiveness to just be a nearly unstoppable player whenever he was on the court.

Those abilities are most prevalent on the offensive end, whether Giles was working on the offensive glass or in transition. Offensive rebounding is definitely Gilles’ top skill on the offensive end, as he combines that bulky 225 frame with a great knowledge of where the ball will wind up even before it bounces off the rim. More importantly, Giles does a great job of being able to score right after he catches the offensive board, as he can see in the play below.

Another way that Giles can score while in the paint is as a nice inside target for cutting guards. Giles makes a killing in that role, as his explosiveness allows him to go from catching the ball to exploding for a huge dunk in a blink of an eye.

Speaking of that explosiveness, Giles is a must watch player when his team is rolling in transition. The 6’11 forward is a sight to be seen when he’s running to the rim as he really does a nice job of keeping up with his smaller teammates. Giles looks like a gazelle when he’s running down the court with an effortless sense. That effortless nature is capped off by Giles either finishing with an athletic layup or an explosive slam. That first example is seen below.

As he heads into Duke and beyond, one skill that could encapsulate Giles offense would be post-ups. Even before he turned 18-years-old, Giles seemed to have a dominating go-to move inside the low-post: a running hook shot. Whether he’s working with his left or right hand, his hook is absolutely stunning with how quickly Giles is able to get in that necessary position to put up the shot. Once that positioning occurs, Giles using every centimeter of his 7’3 wingspan to put up that pretty hook shot, that you can see below.

Despite how solid Giles is as an offensive weapon, he might have more potential on the other end. On that end, Giles combines that excellent frame with athleticism, mobility and great defensive instincts. Those traits allow him to be a versatile defender that can either work inside the paint against centers or move towards the perimeter to defend against cutting guards.

Actually, there’s a sense that Giles might be more comfortable with defending against cutting bigs. That’s seen below as he does a terrific job staying close to the cutting Italian guard from perimeter to paint where he ends up having the huge block.

Despite those excellent traits and how he’s definitely shown himself to be a dominant two-way player, there are still numerous concerns about his future. Even before he’s stepped on an NCAA court, Giles has suffered two ACL tears, to both his left and right knee. When a player gets plauged by those ailments early in their career, there are numerous concerns about how effective he’ll be with Duke and his longevity when he gets into the NBA

In regards to those concerns, the ACL provides a stability for athletes to make rotational movements. So for a player like Giles, a damaged ACL would hurt his foot-work inside the low-post and ability to make quick rotations on the defensive end.

Although those concerns are definitely warranted, modern medicine and training techniques have turned a torn ACl from nearly a career-ending injury into a long bump in the road for most players. In recent memory, players like Nerlens Noel, Jabari Parker and Danilo Gallinari were able to make full recoveries and even improve after suffering that injury.

Those past examples combined with how young Giles is (turned 18 in April) should give Duke fans and NBA scouts some optimism. Because when Harry Giles is on the court and 100%, there might not be many players, no matter if they’re college or even NBA, that can keep up with him.