Harry Giles: ‘If you don’t love the game, you can’t come back from an injury like that’

Who is Harry Giles? For those that are unfamiliar with this 19-year-old Phenom coming out of high school, he already has quite a story at such a young age.

Giles was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina by his parents Harry Giles Sr. and Melissa Addison Giles.

Giles grew up in a big time sports family with his father being a two-sport athlete in both basketball and football for Winston-Salem State University. At a young age before he even picked up a basketball, Giles played both football and baseball. He focused most of his attention towards baseball playing first base, third base and outfield.

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As Giles continued to grow in height, he found his true calling, and that was basketball. In 2013, he attended Wesleyan Christian Academy in North Carolina.

As a freshman, Giles led Wesleyan Christian to a state championship finishing with 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game that season, which led him to become a local hero overnight.

This put Giles in the immediate crosshairs of College/NBA scouts throughout the country. They were drooling over the potential they could have on their roster and yet this kid was only a freshman in high school.

Even at a young age, Giles was already getting NBA comparisons such as Bobby Portis and Chris Webber. Known for his great hands, finishing ability around the rim, lateral movement and exceptional defense, Giles was a projected a No.1 overall pick if and when he finally became eligible and declared for the draft.

But then came the tearing of both his ACL and MCL right before the fall of 2014 that resulted in Giles sitting out his entire sophomore season due to the injuries.

It was a dark time for Giles, and if it wasn’t for his passion for the game of basketball, he wouldn’t have been back to full strength on that left knee injury as fast as he did.

“I learned about will, dedication and how much I love the game,” Giles told Dan Collins. “If you don’t love the game, you can’t come back from an injury like that. You don’t give up. You want to come back better than you were before. You’ve got to work hard to get back to what you want.”

After a full year of recovery, Giles was not only determined but also destined to prove the critics wrong that he hadn’t lost a step and was worthy of the high school player ranking that scouts bestowed upon him following his freshman season at Wesleyan Christian Academy.

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Entering his junior season of basketball and being the No.1 ranked recruit in the country, Giles was chomping at the bit to finally get back on the court with his teammates and face opposing teams once again.

He did so in impressive fashion by finishing with 23.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game that season. Giles went on to lead his Wesleyan Trojans, the No.2 ranked team in the country, to a 30-5 record, but losing in the state championship final to rival high school Greensboro Day School.

This would be the last time students and fans alike would get to see Harry Giles in a Wesleyan Christian Academy uniform as Giles elected to transfer to national contender Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his senior season before deciding on what Division I school he would attend in the Fall of 2016.

Unfortunately for Giles, his bad luck with injuries would continue as he tore the right ACL in his knee during his first game played at Oak Hill Academy. He had to sit out the remainder of the year, focusing on his studies and knee recovery.

Giles was absolutely devastated but realized the importance of being humble about his opportunities when presented. He takes everything day by day and understands that if you want to be great in life, it’s not going to come easy.

That’s the approach he learned while suffering two separate ACL injuries and going under the knife both times.

Throughout Giles’ off-seasons at Wesleyan Christian Academy, while healthy, he participated in the AAU circuit, and played for the CP3 All-Stars. That team is sponsored by current Houston Rocket, Chris Paul, who attended Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, and remains in close contact with Giles till this day.

“Chris is my man, my good brother,” Giles said. “I talk to him all the time. He checks up on me all the time to see how I’m doing. When we get home, he hits me up to see how I’m doing.”

Giles competed against the likes of Thon Maker (Milwaukee Bucks) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) throughout his high school career and developed relationships with these guys while in high school and on the AAU circuit. Tatum, former Duke teammate, in particular built a strong rapport with Giles while they were in high school.

Tatum had a lot of good things to say about his relationship with Giles.

“We’d spend every day together on those trips (with Harry). He was my best friend before we came to Duke,” Tatum told Jessika Morgan of The News & Observer. “We’ve been great friends for a long time, just playing AAU against each other, playing in camps and things like that.”

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Their time together also included being on the USA Basketball team in 2013 where they went on to win three consecutive FIBA gold medals from 2013 to 2015.

Finally healthy once again after a second major surgery, Giles had the decision of what school he would be attending in the Fall of 2016. Offer letters were coming from all the major Division 1 schools throughout the country, but Giles narrowed down his decision to hometown schools Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina, while also considering Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and UNLV as secondary options.

Giles decided to take his talents the Blue Devils, assuring Duke of another very successful year in college basketball. To make things even better for Giles, his childhood best friend and No.2 ranked recruit in the 2016 class, Jayson Tatum announced he would be attending Duke in the fall of 2016 as well.

On Oct. 3, 2016, Duke announced that Giles would be undergoing a third surgery in three years on his left knee. Though not considered serious, this did put him back another 6 weeks in recovery time.

For being just a 19 year old with three separate knee surgeries, it is amazing to see how composed Giles has been during these setbacks, continuing to work, recover and prove to the world that basketball is in his blood.

Ultimately, he finished his freshman season at Duke averaging 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Though not impressive for an NBA prospect, Giles elected to enter the 2017 NBA draft in the hopes that scouts would see past his injuries and lack of statistics at Duke and see the transcending talent that lurks in the shadows.

Giles put all his chips on the table and came out on top when the Sacramento Kings drafted him 20th overall in the 2017 NBA draft after a trade allowed them to do so with the Portland Trailblazers.

For the Kings, it was a no brainer taking a flyer on a player who has potential to be great if he can find a way to stay healthy.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for his mercy for seeing me through some of my darkest days,” Giles said on his social media accounts after being drafted. “I felt honored and blessed to have been invited to the NBA Draft green room. However, I’ll use this moment to honor my family, my city (Winston-Salem) and my friends who have supported me through some of my toughest battles. I’m blessed to have this opportunity and thankful to the Sacramento Kings organization for believing in me and giving me a chance to live my dream, playing in the NBA.”

Here in Sacramento, Giles will have the opportunity to slowly recover from his past injuries and learn from the seasoned veterans in front of him. With no pressure to perform right away, he will get a feel of what it means to be a professional in the National Basketball Association.

That is the type of culture change Vlade Divac is intending to implement as his organization gets back on track.

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Cameron York
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