Gradey Dick was spending time with his teammates when they were told a special guest wanted to wish them luck. Suddenly, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum appeared on the screen.
Dick already had plenty of other thoughts in mind: the high schooler is leaving this weekend to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Next, he heads to Florida to play with Sunrise Christian Academy in the GEICO High School Showcase for a shot at qualifying as national champions. After that, he left Florida and traveled to Portland, Oregon to compete in the NIKE Hoop Summit.
Seeing Tatum’s face appear brought Dick to the present, however. All he could do was listen. He wasn’t sure why Tatum was calling, but he didn’t expect what was to follow: Tatum was calling to honor him as the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It was literally shocking,” Dick told For The Win. “Talking to a spirit like that, with his perspective, is something I never imagined would happen so soon.”
— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) March 22, 2022
Dick is an outstanding marksman for Sunrise Christian, who was recently named the best team overall on ESPN’s High School Basketball Top 25. The 6-foot-7 forward is a five-star freshman who signed up to Kansas for college basketball.
He was chosen as the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year winner out of more than half a million other student-athletes who play men’s basketball nationwide. Dick was chosen by a panel of coaches, scouts and media not only for his athletic excellence, but also for his academic achievement and exemplary character, according to the prize website.
Previous winners of the award include LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, among others. More than two dozen winners, including Tatum, became first-round picks.
When he presented the award to Dick and saw the raw emotion Dick’s team and family felt, Tatum couldn’t help but think of the “relief” that he felt when Penny Hardaway bestowed the same honor on him in 2016.
“Sharing that moment with him, I remembered the excitement I felt,” Tatum said. “Being on this side is just as cool and I’m happy to do that.”
During his chat with For The Win, Tatum said that before his senior year of high school at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, Mo., he set ambitious goals for himself to win the championship. Missouri State and Gatorade National Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year. Award.
Tatum has achieved both of these milestones and now sees much of the same determination in Dick.
“He seems really focused. He’s not someone who seems to be complacent, obviously,” Tatum said. “You could tell how excited he was to play at the next level. He talked about [Kansas] coach [Bill] Self and Allen Fieldhouse and the atmosphere. It brought me back. I remember how excited I was to go to college. I’m excited to see him next year.
Dick said he didn’t predict anything, but it’s a well-deserved honor. He enjoyed one of major filming seasons in high school basketball history. He thrives on pick-and-pop when he lifts to the perimeter, he reverses his catch-and-shoot opportunities, and he can create dribble.
Gradey Dick had one of the greatest filming seasons in HS history. 18 3PAs per 100 poss in NIBC, he made 45-84 53.6% spot up/pick-n-pop threes, 14-25 56% off screen threes and 19-46 41.3% off three dribbles.
— Mike Gribanov (@mikegrib8) March 15, 2022
He led all players in the tournament in total 3 points made at the Montverde Academy Invitational in 2021, per Cerebro Sports. He was then the leading scorer in the La Porte Invitational in 2022, averaging 21.7 points per game.
Tatum saw Dick perform in person earlier this year when he went to Springfield College to watch the Hoophall Classic. If his schedule permitted, Tatum said he would also like to see Dick perform in the GEICO High School Showcase.
“I think it’s my duty,” Tatum explained. “Being in high school, when pro NBA players would come back and watch games and watch me play, I know how that made me feel and I know how excited I was. I remember it was like a visual. There’s someone who is where I want to get to. It’s like motivation. So now that I’m able to go back and watch the high school players in the tournaments I’ve participated, I feel that is fair.
Last year, Dick’s Sunrise Christian made it all the way to the finals of the GEICO tournament. However, they finished second, fall 62-52 at the Academy of Montverde.
Last year, Sunrise Christian was led by two top-15 rookies in Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) and Kendall Brown (Baylor).
Dick was able to learn how to make an impact even without the ball in his hands, and he was able to flourish as an off-ball movement shooter as he navigated the screens. This season, however, he has become more of a focal point.
“I had to find a bigger role and be the leader of this team and just push our guys forward,” Dick said. “I don’t know if even us or many other people in the country expected us to be where we are at the start of the season.”
Of course, with the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year in his possession and with the goal of ending his illustrious high school career at Sunrise Christian, Dick still makes time to watch Kansas play in March Madness.
The Jayhawks won the Big 12 Conference Tournament, then beat Texas Southern and Creighton in the opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. They will face Providence in the Sweet 16 on March 25.
“It’s crazy!” Dick added. “I love seeing the team I’m going to play for in the future, literally next year, continue to dance to the Sweet 16. Seeing how they bond on and off the pitch is what excites me the more.”