The sports world cannot wait for the highly-anticipated Final Four matchup between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. There will be plenty of talent on the floor in New Orleans, but UNC’s Caleb Love will be one of the biggest stars. Love won’t have just the Tar Heels faithful rooting for him. Jayson Tatum’s dad, Justin Tatum, will be as well.
For the elder Tatum, his rooting interest is a bit cloudy, as his son played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Still, he has played a significant role in Love’s development as a basketball player. With ties on both sides, Tatum is gearing up for an emotional roller coaster during the epic NCAA Tournament semifinal matchup between the heated ACC rivals.
Jayson Tatum’s dad coached Caleb Love in high school
Caleb Love is preparing to play on college basketball‘s biggest stage. The stakes have never been higher, but it’s important to know how he got to this point.
Before arriving in Chapel Hill, Love starred at Christian Brothers High School in St. Louis, Missouri. There, his high school basketball coach was Justin Tatum, the father of Boston Celtics All-Star and former Duke Blue Devil Jayson Tatum.
While Love’s talent is natural, Tatum helped transform the UNC star into one of the hottest hoops prospects in the country. 247 Sports rated the 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard a five-star prospect and the seventh-best player in the Class of 2020. Love won Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors for the 2019 season.
Justin Tatum saw aspects of the Tar Heels guard’s game in high school that he still sees in him today.
“He does have an internal switch like no other,” Tatum said per Aaron Beard of the Associated Press. “And it’s just, there’s just something unexplainable.”
Tatum will be rooting for both sides during Duke-UNC Final Four matchup
Justin Tatum is excited to watch Caleb Love do his thing in the Final Four. He’s watched the UNC standout develop over the years, and now he’s a future NBA prospect.
While Tatum wants Love to do well, he can’t fully root for North Carolina to win the semifinal matchup against Duke. His son, Jayson Tatum, played for Coach K and the Blue Devils during the 2016 season. He averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists at Duke before getting drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Justin Tatum has ties to both sides of the rivalry, so he’s doing the unspeakable — supporting UNC and Duke simultaneously.
“I’ve got a North Carolina shirt, and I’ve got a Duke hat,” Tatum said. I’ve just got to play both fields. Just got to do it.”
Tatum says Caleb Love has worked hard to get to this point. “He’s a great kid,” he added. “At the end of the day, he’s an exceptional talent. He does have some things he’s got to work on, and I see that happening. And I think he’s really going to be ready for this stage on Saturday. I’m excited to see it.”
Love must have another big performance to propel Tar Heels to National Championship
Caleb Love is a special talent. He has played a massive role in North Carolina’s success in 2021. Love is averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.4 rebounds on the year. He’s the Tar Heels’ second-leading scorer, and he’s been playing well in the NCAA Tournament.
Love exploded for 30 points in the Sweet 16 victory over the UCLA Bruins. Duke knows all too well how good he can be when he’s on. The sophomore guards went for 22 points, five assists, and five points in the win over the Blue Devils in the regular-season finale.
UNC head coach Hubert Davis loves the young star’s confidence.
“He always feels like he’s going to make the next shot,” said Davis. And I think that’s a talent. And he has that, and he’s really good at that. The other thing for Caleb is he’s not afraid to fail. He likes being in that situation to take the shot, and be in those pressure situations, and to be able to step up. I don’t know where we would be without Caleb.”
Caleb Love has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates. But no one believes in his abilities as much as himself.
“Never losing your confidence,” Love said. “I know how much work I put in and how much time I put in the gym. I feel like my confidence never wavers, that I know that I can come up big in late moments and do what I do.”
The Tar Heels need Love to do just that to help spoil Coach K’s farewell party.
All stats courtesy of College Basketball Reference