Many superstar basketball prospects look to family members and coaches to help guide them through their college recruitments.
Class of 2016 star Jayson Tatum certainly has plenty of support in those areas, but there’s also another important figure in his life who will be able to offer a unique perspective on what’s to come over the next couple of years.
Brad Beal was in a similar situation as Tatum just a few years ago. A top-five national prospect who starred for Chaminade Prep in St. Louis and had scholarship offers from the top programs in the country, Beal eventually signed with Florida, became the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft and now stars for the Washington Wizards.
That’s the end goal for Tatum, and he’ll have Beal to help him get there.
Tatum — now a sophomore — was a seventh-grader at Chaminade during Beal’s senior season. Despite the age difference, the two formed a bond that has grown stronger over the years.
“Brad is probably the ultimate role model and mentor,” said Brandy Cole, Tatum’s mother. “When he was home this summer, they spent a lot of time together in the gym, working out and shooting around. He definitely took Jayson under his wing, even when they were in school (together).
“He always kept him around and let him shoot around and play open gym with them. He’s always been a really good role model and mentor and like a big brother to him. They are very, very close.”
Cole said Beal has given her son advice not just about basketball, but about how to handle himself off the court, with fans and the media, and stresses the importance of excelling in the classroom, where Tatum has made the school’s honor roll.
Tatum’s mother said the two spent just about every day together in the gym last summer. Tatum, who was the first player from the Class of 2016 to receive a UK scholarship offer, is appreciative of Beal’s guidance when they were students together and considers the Wizards guard a mentor. He specifically praised Beal for his work ethic, and that’s something he’s trying to emulate early in his career.
“Brad always let me hang around with him at lunchtime, or after practice I got to shoot around with him. I thought that was pretty cool,” Tatum said. “Brad’s like an older brother to me. … He’s definitely someone you can look up to and want to model your game after.”
Florida is one of the many schools that has already offered Tatum a scholarship, but Cole made it clear that Beal won’t try to steer her son to his alma mater. Instead of volunteering advice, the former Gator has been there to answer whatever questions Tatum has, and to make sure he stays on the path to a possible professional career.
“I know that has helped him a lot — to have someone close to you that you feel like you can talk to candidly about something and that has been through the process,” Cole said. “That helps Jayson a lot as far as how he handles this process.
“But he’s not influencing or trying to persuade him to a particular college.”