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Prior to the pandemic shutting down the world as we know it in the spring of 2020, I had a chance to spend some time in St. Louis working on a Jayson Tatum multi-media package.
I hung out with Tatum's dad Justin, a former standout at St. Louis University who played overseas and played his college ball with Larry Hughes, Jayson Tatum's Godfather.
During my time with Justin, Head Coach at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, I had a chance to spend some time talking to his star player.
You might be familiar with him.
His name is Caleb Love, arguably the biggest breakout star in the NCAA Tournament this year.
I don't put a ton of stock into what kids do at the high school level in terms of stats.
I've learned through trial and error to focus more on the mechanics, how they get to where they need to be when they need to be there; does their athleticism, basketball I.Q., and feel for the game, look and feel different compared to those they are on the court with?
Caleb Love checked off all these boxes, none more impressive than his ability to score seemingly when he wanted to. There was an undeniable confidence that, despite double teams and blitzing him when he had the ball, he was going to make the right play which more times than not, was to score.
We're seeing that play out right now in his sophomore season with the Tar Heels.
But lost in Love's success is the fact that in high school, he had a coach in Justin Tatum who believed in his skills and put him in a position to accentuate his talents, consistently.
And while Love's talent has had a lot to do with his breakout play in the postseason, a good bit of credit has to go to first-year Head coach Hubert Davis who replaced Hall of Famer Roy Williams this season.
This is by no means shade at Williams who is one of the best college coaches, ever. But Davis' willingness to play more to Love's strengths - scoring - rather than a system that in many ways limited his strength, has unleashed a Tar Heels attack that is just one win away from a national championship.
Celtics fans have seen a similar evolution in Boston with Jayson Tatum and first-year coach Ime Udoka.
Under Udoka's predecessor (and now boss) Brad Stevens, Tatum was an incredibly talented scorer who was emerging as a solid defender.
He has those same responsibilities under Udoka, but has also added the role of a playmaker to his list of skills.
That has opened Tatum up to being one of the league's top players who will likely get some votes for league MVP this season.
And again, no shade at Brad Stevens who was a brilliant coach during his eight seasons for the Celtics.
But there's a level of play that Udoka has tapped into, that I'm not convinced would have been achieved if the coaching change had not been made.
The role that players have in a team's success and improvement is undeniable. But often that talent has to be honed by a coach who believes not only in the player's talent, but believes in it so much that he's willing to modify or ditch his own system because that talent has the potential to produce an even more bountiful harvest in what matters most - winning games.
Love has the UNC Tar Heels one victory away from the school's seventh NCAA title, which would be the school's first since 2017.
Jayson Tatum has the Celtics in the race for the best overall in the Eastern Conference, and potentially home-court advantage for the duration of the Eastern Conference players which is vital in their quest for Banner 18.
Their talent obviously has a lot to do with their individual and team success.
But having a coach that puts them in the best position to do what they do well?
That's just as valuable.