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Incoming freshman Jayson Tatum named Gatorade National Player of the Year

<p>Swingman Jayson Tatum joins Jabari Parker as recent Blue Devil commits to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.&nbsp;</p>

Swingman Jayson Tatum joins Jabari Parker as recent Blue Devil commits to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. 

After a week under the bright lights of the Windy City, things might have gone back to normal for Jayson Tatum when he went returned to school Thursday.

Not quite.

Tatum was named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year Thursday during a surprise announcement at his high school in St. Louis. Four-time NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway presented Tatum with the award.

"It was truly a surprise. I had no idea that this was going on," Tatum said in a phone interview Thursday. "I’m just extremely honored and excited to win this award."

Tatum—who poured in 18 points in Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago—is the second-ranked recruit in the Class of 2016 and will join top-ranked recruit Harry Giles in Durham next season. He flew back from Chicago Thursday morning and was expecting somewhat of a return to normalcy with the All-American festivities at their conclusion.

Instead, he was given a bit of misdirection as preparations for the surprise continued.

"They said we were having a press conference at 12:15 with the team about winning the state championship, and that’s what I thought it was. But my principal called me in his office and he wanted to talk to me at 12:15, so I was going to be late, and he was like ‘It’s okay, we can be a little bit late,'" Tatum said. "Then we walked in and my friends and family were here, and there was only one microphone at the podium, and I was kind of confused."

The 6-foot-8 sharp-shooter led Chaminade College Preparatory School to a Missouri state title this season, scoring 40 points in the championship game March 19. For the season, Tatum averaged 29.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Tatum is a two-time winner of the Gatorade award for the state of Missouri, and joins Jabari Parker as recent Blue Devil commits to win the award.

With his high school career in the books, Tatum said he will spend the next few months trying to get better ahead of his arrival in Durham, where he expects the Duke coaching staff to put him in the weight room frequently.

"[I'm] really excited about the whole thing, playing with great players—the guys who are already there and the guys coming in—[and] playing for Coach K," Tatum said. "We’re all excited to learn."

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