Jayson Tatum’s HS Hoops Coach on NBA Title Chase: “We Think He’ll Make It”

ST. LOUIS – One of St. Louis’ own take on basketball’s biggest stage. Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are ready to battle with the Golden State Warriors when the NBA Finals begin Thursday.

Tatum, a 2016 graduate of Chaminade College Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, is chasing his first NBA championship in a young but highly decorated career. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the league’s top scorers on his way to three straight All-Star selections, a Summer Olympics bid and most recently an honorary MVP title from the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals.

His primary high school basketball coach, Frank Bennett, is thrilled to sit back and watch the ride.

“It’s been really great to see what he’s doing right now, not just for the St. Louis community, but for basketball as a whole,” Bennett said in a one-on-one interview with FOX2 on Wednesday. “He’s a guy who has everything under control and is still a down-to-earth guy. He will be poised and positioned to be the face of the league.”

Bennett, who took over as head coach of Chaminade’s college basketball team in 2013, first met Tatum during middle school basketball camps in the early 2010s. Before that, he attended the same church as Tatum’s grandmother for several years. Bennett has kept in touch with Tatum frequently throughout the 2021-22 season and says he’s fortunate to watch Tatum make the most of his opportunities.

“He means so much to so many of us at Chaminade and in the St. Louis community,” Bennett said. “We’re ten toes with him and we think he can do it and win an NBA championship.”

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum plays against the Miami Heat in the first half of Game 6 of the playoff series of the NBA Basketball Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, May 27, 2022 in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Where everything began

Tatum’s journey to NBA stardom began from humble beginnings. He reflected on some adversities he faced recently growing up One to One Special with ESPN’s Sage Steele.

Fast forward to high school, Tatum developed into one of Missouri’s most energetic athletes. In his last three seasons with Chaminade, he averaged at least 25 points and nine rebounds per game each season. Chaminade rallied to consecutive Final Four state appearances during Tatum’s junior and senior years before ending his high school career with a state championship in 2016.

“The things he did with a ball in his hands were special,” Bennett said. “He was just a terror to the opposition. There was no one who could really protect him. It didn’t matter if it was someone his size with some strength, a dynamic athlete who could crawl under him, you just couldn’t make him uncomfortable.”

According to Bennett, Tatum’s success in high school helped Chaminade sustain one of the St. Louis area’s most celebrated basketball programs, modeled on the example of his former fellow Red Devils and NBA star Bradley Beal.

“Brad was a great student and an incredible worker,” said Bennett. “[Tatum] reflects that. He was trying to win, and he was trying to make sure other people were involved while he was doing what he was doing. We have a culture of guys who want to shoot in front of school and do the extra, and a lot of that is attributed to the way Jayson took it and ran with it.

A scrimmage exercise, high school memories of all things, really opened Bennett’s eyes to how Tatum was becoming a budding star.

“He’s scored 17 straight,” Bennett said. “It was one of those things where you train and you’re constantly dependent on your guys and in the back of your mind you really can’t blame those people. Because right before your eyes you’re watching an NBA All-Star take off. The boys played good defence, hands to their faces, trying to push [Tatum] whatever they thought his weakness was, and he would only score.

This led to standout moments throughout high school, including a 40-point performance in Chamindae’s state title win against Kickapoo in 2016.

“When the lights come on, he always performs,” ​​Bennett said. “In the first half of the state championship game [senior year]he had 27 [points] and the opponent had 26. If that’s not included, I don’t know what is.”

Chaminades’ Jayson Tatum, right, and teammate Tyler Cook celebrate after the Missouri Class 5 boys high school championship basketball game against Kickapoo Saturday March 19, 2016 in Columbia, Mo. Chaminade won 72-59. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Excellence at the college or NBA level hasn’t waned, and neither has Tatum’s love for his hometown. One day after entering the NBA Finals tatum shared via Twitter that he “dreamed about moments like this” as a kid from St. Louis. Tatum’s appreciation for his hometown is no secret.

During his 2017 rookie season, he landed a big endorsement deal with hometown hit Imo’s Pizza. Tatum also enjoys many other St. Louis food and beverage brands, including Red Hot Riplets and Vess Soda, according to Bennett. Earlier this year, Tatum won the hearts of St. Louisans on social media Selection of the “St. Louis Aries” to win Super Bowl LVI, a comment that came shortly after the franchise settled a lawsuit over the football team’s relocation to Los Angeles.

“Anyone who knows Jayson knows he’s a die-hard St. Louisan,” Bennett said. “He lives and breathes all those things that are staples in our community, everything from the food to the culture of St. Louis. The world is open to him, but he doesn’t forget where he comes from.”

St. Louis in the NBA Finals

Tatum and dozens of others from St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs have worked their way up into the NBA over the years, according to a List compiled by Basketball.RealGM.com. Only six players with roots in the St. Louis area have ever won an NBA championship.

Most recently, St. Louis produced two title-winning talents in the 2010s. Patrick McCaw and David Lee both earned titles as members of the Golden State Warriors, opponents to Tatum and Co. Surprisingly, a native of St. Louis won with the Celtics. Jo Jo White won two titles with Boston and was the 1976 NBA Finals MVP honor.

“If you look at how basketball history was made in St. Louis, there have been people who have come before to lead the way,” Bennett said. “When they get there, we rally behind them, and it’s no different for Jayson.”

Bennett believes a championship for Tatum could help shape another generation of athletes in St. Louis.

“For a man to be at the highest level in his profession and to rise to the highest ranks in a profession that so many children idolize and want for themselves inspires people,” Bennett said. “It inspires young kids who were once the Jaysons of the world. It gives them hope that they can accomplish things right before our eyes.”

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum lifts the NBA Eastern Conference MVP trophy after beating the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference NBA Basketball Playoff series on Sunday, May 29 (AP Photo/ Wilfredo Lee)

A tall order awaits Tatum and the Celtics as they try to fend off a veteran Warriors franchise that has won three straight titles and five Finals appearances from 2015-2019. Golden State superstar Steph Curry has shone in seven 30-point games this playoff campaign and could prove tough to stop. Still, Bennett is optimistic about the possibility of a Tatum title.

“I know we have some people who think Golden State is a shoe-in. I don’t believe that for a second,” Bennett said. “Can Boston do it? They can do that one hundred percent.”

Tippoff for Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for Thursday at 8pm CT. Tatum and the Celtics will open the championship round with two road games before returning to Boston for at least two more.

https://fox2now.com/sports/jayson-tatums-hs-hoops-coach-on-nba-title-chase-we-believe-hes-going-to-get-it-done/ Jayson Tatum’s HS Hoops Coach on NBA Title Chase: “We Think He’ll Make It”

Nate Jones

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