Harry Giles was sitting near a large-screen TV at his home in Winston-Salem, N.C., far from the NBA draft proceedings at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn last Thursday, when he learned his future destination.
Sacramento, NBA, 20th pick.
The party was on, finally.
“I didn’t know who was taking me, to be honest,” Giles said Saturday, “but this is where I wanted to be. I like the idea of growing with a bunch of young players, and I got a good feeling from the Kings when I met with them. And it helps that I know a lot of the guys already, too.”
Most of the young Kings have known Giles – or known about Giles – for years. Before the 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward suffered the first of two ACL tears in 2013, he was the top-rated high school recruit in the nation, a phenom on the AAU circuit and on USA Basketball’s developmental team. He remembers competing against a massive Georgios Papagiannis in Greece when both were in their early teens.
“Harry could do everything,” recalled Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox, a friend since elementary school. “You name it. Dribble the ball, block shots, rebound, score at will, score with his back to the basket. I know everyone thinks about the injuries, but he’s going to help us.”
That’s the hope, anyway, but only the hope. Giles, who played sparingly in his one season at Duke, arrives with a massive skillset and enormous questions about his health. A Chris Webber-like prospect with that terrific size and those soft hands, he tore his left ACL while playing for the U.S. in Argentina in 2013. After undergoing surgery and missing his entire sophomore season at Wesleyan Christian Academy, he led the nation’s No. 2-ranked program to a 30-5 record and a berth in North Carolina’s 3A state championship.
Then, in the opening game of his senior year, Giles relived the nightmare: An opposing player fell against him, clutched at his jersey and caused him to land awkwardly. This time it was his right knee, and another operation, and another lost season.
“I know what people mean when they talk about adversity,” Giles said, very matter-of-fact. “It’s been a journey. Three surgeries (one arthroscopy) in four years. I guess the only good thing is that I’m young, and because I went through it once, I knew what to expect when it happened again.”
And the Kings? What do they expect? General manager Vlade Divac heard all the comparisons between Giles and a young Webber, but he also was on the court when his former teammate suffered a career-diminishing knee injury in May 2003. There are no illusions; Webber was never the same. The Kings took the high-risk, high-reward gamble on Giles for two reasons: because of his age (19) and the fact they garnered an additional first-round pick by trading No. 10 to the Portland Trail Blazers for Nos. 15 and 20.
Patience is the word from the Golden 1 Center pulpit. The plan is to develop the youngsters, add a veteran presence, and afford Giles an opportunity to get stronger and grow into his maturing frame. With Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic expected to sign during the free agency period, joining a rookie class that includes Fox, forward Justin Jackson and point guard Frank Mason III, the 2017-18 Kings will be young, gifted and virtually unrecognizable.
Giles joins a select group of current or former NBA players who have twice torn an ACL. Former first-round picks Jabari Parker and Dante Exum, Nos. 2 and 5, respectively, in 2014, tore the same ligament twice. Numerous other NBA players have overcome ACL tears and enjoyed successful careers, among them Jamal Crawford, Tim Hardaway, Sean Elliott, Kyle Lowry and Tony Allen.
“We like Harry a lot,” added Divac, “so we’ll see. He’s only 19. We’ll let him develop.”