NEW YORK—Harry Giles had shown rare glimpses of why he was the top recruit in the nation last year, with an occasional block or athletic dunk popping up every few games.

It only took six seconds for him to put it all together on of the sport's biggest stages Friday night.

It started with an emphatic block of ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson in the paint with 5:36 remaining and the Blue Devils leading North Carolina 75-70 after a comeback from a 13-point deficit. Then, in the blink of an eye, Giles was on the other end of the floor, somehow past every Tar Heel defender, jumping, grabbing  a pass that left Grayson Allen's hands just inside the halfcourt line and slamming it down in one motion.

The dunk elicited a roar from the Duke crowd at the Barclays Center that sounded a lot like Cameron Indoor Stadium. It took five months, but Giles finally arrived on the national scene.

"It was one of the best sequences of basketball by one individual all year," graduate student Amile Jefferson said. "He had a chance, he had moments, and he took the biggest advantage of it, and we need him to be able to do things like that because it elevates our team. When he’s special, we’re special."

The sequence capped Giles' best performance of the season, with six points, seven rebounds and four blocks in just 15 minutes. Six of the rebounds and all four blocks came in the second half, when Giles had to step in with Jefferson in foul trouble and the Blue Devils' tournament hanging in the balance.

Giles' presence suddenly neutralized the Tar Heel big men that had dominated the entire first half—just 18 of North Carolina's 50 points in the paint and four of senior center Kennedy Meeks' 19 points came after the break.

"I felt great, just kind of making multiple plays. Not making a play here, maybe another two minutes here, there and come out of the game," Giles said. "I wanted to be a little spark plug coming off the bench and just give us the momentum and get us going.... It kind of got rolling from there."

Offensively, Giles matched his highest scoring total since Jan. 23, capped by two clutch free throws in the final two minutes to help put the game away. The free throws mirrored the two he sank against the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium Feb. 9 to help shut the door on that win, too, .

"He brings so much energy to the court. Without him, we don’t win that ballgame today," freshman Frank Jackson said. "It’s not surprising because he works his butt off. He worked his butt off this offseason, and through the summertime and through the fall."

The breakthrough game was a long time coming for Giles, who could not play basketball 13 months after tearing his ACL as a senior in high school in November 2015 and needing arthroscopic surgery on his other knee last October.

Some college basketball pundits speculated that he should not risk another serious injury and stay off the court until the NBA draft—but that was never a consideration.

"A lot of people said, well, Harry shouldn't play and whatever," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Harry wants to play. Harry wants to be at Duke. Harry wants to be their teammate. Harry wants to be a college kid and be on Duke's team."

After a long summer, with Giles saying after Friday's game he went to rehab twice or even three times per day during his recovery, it took him longer to get into game shape than most expected. He has not become the consistent force that he could be at full strength, but the Winston-Salem, N.C, native is finally growing into his role off the bench and finding ways to make an impact in short spurts.

"Every time I've talked to Harry, I just told him that he's really good, and it doesn't matter if he's coming off the bench, if he's in the game for two, three, four minutes," junior Grayson Allen said. "I said, 'You might be playing limited minutes. You might feel like a role player, but you're not. You're extremely talented, and when you get out there, act like it.'"

Giles took that advice that to heart Friday and showed why he has remained in the first round of most mock drafts with only 12.0 minutes per game under his belt. And the 6-foot-10 big man has plenty of room to grow as he continues to regain his athleticism, even if the Blue Devils will likely never enjoy Giles at his peak.

"Harry is coming off of some really bad injuries. He's still—you know, a year from now will probably get it," Krzyzewski said. "He's put it all out there. When our guys have seen that, it's been a lift. It's been a huge lift for us."