Harry Giles III has waited a long time to play meaningful minutes in a basketball game, but the wait is almost over.
Giles was considered the nation’s top high school prospect before knee injuries nearly crippled a promising career. He sat out most of the past three seasons while recovering from surgical procedures on both knees, but his highly lauded skills will finally be unleashed against the NBA next month.
“It’s time,” Giles said. “This is my time to play. And it’s for real this time.”
The Kings open their preseason schedule Monday night on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
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The 6-foot-10 forward/center is eager to begin his rookie campaign with the Kings more than 15 months after he was drafted with the 20th pick in 2017. While Giles sat out last season with an abundance of caution from the organization, he made a big impression on teammates in practice.
“I love Harry’s game,” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “He’s going to be a beast. Like most of us, coming into the league, you’ve got to find that pace, and once you find that pace it’s going to be scary.”
Kings forward Skal Labissiere agreed.
“He’s good, man. He’s really talented,” Labissiere said. “He used to be the No. 1 player in high school at one point. It wasn’t for nothing. I’m glad to see him healthy. I think he has a chance to be special.”
Giles tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee shortly before his sophomore year in high school. He returned the following year to dominate against top competition, but he missed his senior season after tearing his right ACL.
Giles played sparingly in his one season at Duke after undergoing a third surgical procedure – again on his left knee – prior to his freshman year.
Despite the injuries, the Kings opted to take a chance on Giles in the draft, a risk that could be richly rewarded if he regains the elite status that made him a high school phenomenon.
Kings coach Dave Joerger said the organization has not placed any restrictions on Giles’ minutes for the upcoming season, but he cautioned that it could take time for the 20-year-old big man to realize his potential.
“It’s going to be a couple years for him,” Joerger said. “We all have a great deal of hope for all of our guys in Sacramento, and it’s very passionate. I would just really try to temper our hopes for him. ... He’s getting healthy and hopefully we’ll see his growth over the next two or three years.”
Giles said he isn’t worried about expectations.
“I’m just trying to go out there and play basketball,” he said. “At this point, I’m not even thinking about what people want me to do or expect out of me. Just go out there and compete, play to the best of my ability, play hard, and I think the outcome will be great.”
Fans got a good look at Giles’ skill set in July during the inaugural California Classic in Sacramento and the Las Vegas summer league. In seven games, he averaged 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 24.6 minutes per contest.
Giles displayed a smooth stroke as a shooter, a deft touch as a passer and a willingness to work on defense. He flashed a bit of a mean streak, too, mixing it up with opponents on a number of occasions.
Giles has continued to demonstrate those skills in training camp. During a brief stretch of a scrimmage near the end of Thursday’s practice, he swished a free-throw line jumper, threw a perfectly placed bounce pass to a cutting De’Aaron Fox and muscled inside for an emphatic two-handed dunk.
Giles seems to be developing a nice rapport with forward Marvin Bagley III, who was taken with the No. 2 pick in June’s draft. Joerger said it could be some time before he’s comfortable putting his rookie big men on the floor together for significant minutes, but both players are looking forward to that day.
“I’m excited,” Bagley said. “I know what Harry has been through with his injuries and stuff, and before his injuries he was scary. He was a scary player to guard and play against. Now you just start to see him getting back to that, so I’m definitely excited about moving forward and playing with him. I think that will definitely be a scary duo in the future.”