BOSTON -- For the past couple of years, Jayson Tatum has been a big-time talent.
As a high schooler, he was among the nation’s best. In his lone season at Duke, the 29-year-old established himself as one of college basketball’s top players.
And just like that, he’s off to the latest and greatest basketball challenge of them all -- the NBA, after the Boston Celtics selected him with the third overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
The Celtics had the top overall pick, but traded it to Philadelphia for the No. 3 selection and a future first-round pick.
Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, made it clear that had they not struck a deal to move down a couple spots, they would have selected Tatum with the number one overall pick.
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“It was a great compliment,” Tatum said via conference call after the draft. “I’m excited Danny Ainge thinks that highly of me.”
Said Ainge: “We like his size, length, shooting, intelligence, character. There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”
Coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments.
“He’s a really skilled player, really talented scorer,” Stevens said. “Great kid, great work ethic. We’re excited to have him aboard.”
And Tatum comes in having been told lots of positives about Brad Stevens from his college coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
“He had nothing but great things to say about [Stevens],” Tatum said. “I got that impression when I met him for the first time.”
During his visit with the Celtics, Tatum said he watched film of Boston’s offense with Stevens in addition to some film of when he played at Duke.
Tatum understands there will be a learning curve of sorts when it comes into the NBA.
But his growth must also come about physically, too.
He arrived at Duke weighing less than 200 pounds, but the 6-foot-8 wing player has gained about 10 pounds since then.
Aware that he needs to add additional weight, Tatum isn’t overly concerned about that right now.
“I’m just 19,” he said. “So I’m pretty sure my body’s going to continue to fill out and see where I get; a comfortable playing weight.”
He has identified three areas of his game that need to be strengthened at the next level: Consistency on defense, getting stronger and consistency shooting the ball.
And as a Celtic, Tatum has quickly picked up on one of the seldom-talked about but vital aspects of being a Celtic: A disdain for the Los Angeles Lakers.
That might be a little tricky at first for Tatum, who grew up a Kobe Bryant fan.
“It makes it easier that Kobe doesn’t play anymore,” Tatum said. “Kobe was always my favorite player. I guess I just rooted for them because he was on there.
"But I’m a Celtics fan now.”