There’s something different about Harry Giles each time he steps on the court.
A little more bounce in his step, a little more verve in his shot.
Only five games into his college career after not playing competitive basketball for about 13 months, the star freshman has shown remarkable progression.
He was undoubtedly rusty in his first college appearance – a brief debut against Tennessee State on Dec. 19.
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“Probably confidence. I’d say that’s the biggest area where Harry has grown,” said interim coach Jeff Capel after Duke’s 93-82 win over Boston College on Saturday. He’s filling in for Mike Krzyzewski, who underwent lower-back surgery Friday and could be out for up to four weeks.
“When you think about that first game, where he played, I think he played three minutes,” Capel said. “Even in that three minutes, I think it gave him confidence. I think he was a little hesitant in that three minutes that he played the first game, because the last time he played a game, he tore his knee in the first minute and 35 seconds.”
Giles had to overcome the mental hurdle that accompanied his knee injuries. He had a scope on Oct. 3 and missed the first 11 games of the season.
I think the mental toughness he’s shown has been great. He could have easily not played this year.
In his last two contests, both starts, he’s combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds in 41 minutes. Giles posted his first career double-double against Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
He played a career-high 24 minutes against the Eagles, and he was the centerpiece on various plays, heating up Cameron Indoor Stadium on a cold, snowy day. He finished with 12 points and five boards.
“Yeah, most definitely,” Giles said about whether or not being in the starting lineup boosted his confidence. “Just because, you know, I’m already out there, so you have to set the tone early for the guys coming off the bench.”
He perhaps played extended minutes in the victory over Boston College (8-8-, 1-2 ACC) due to fifth-year forward Amile Jefferson leaving the game with a right foot injury in the first half. Capel said the extent of his injury is unknown. That allowed Giles and Marques Bolden to shoulder more weight in the middle. Capel didn’t miss a beat with Krzyzewski out.
Duke (14-2, 2-1) passed out 20 assists, led by Grayson Allen’s career-high 11. It was Allen’s second game returning from a one-game suspension, and Capel kept the star junior in at starting point guard. Allen has recorded a combined 17 assists in these past two outings.
Six Blue Devils wound up with double figures, excluding leading scorer Luke Kennard, who for the first time this season didn’t post double digits.
Jefferson was the leading scorer with 11 points when he came out of the game with about 7 minutes left in the first half.
He said Giles hasn’t reached a fraction of his ceiling as the freshman from Winston-Salem continues to progress, even over the span of a game, making decisions on the fly. When a post-up move didn’t work in the second half, he dropped a jumper over a BC defender for a 75-53 Duke lead with 11:16 left.
“That’s the Harry everyone knows,” Jefferson said after Duke’s 110-57 win over the Jackets. “He’s only getting better. He’s getting more comfortable, you can see it game after game after game after game. He’s not even where he’s going to be the next three games from now.”
Giles still has some work to do; he collected five fouls Saturday. But the positive is that the 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward is finding his stride, bringing his vivacious personality along for the ride.
Late in the second half, Giles animatedly wrapped his arms an official and walked with him after a timeout to gather a sense of what he did wrong on the previous play.
“I think the mental toughness he’s shown has been great. He could have easily not played this year,” Capel said. “Having gone through what that kid has gone through, if you really think about it: ... since the eighth grade, he’s played two seasons. That’s very hard. He’s been a prodigy since ninth grade. It’s not just taxing physically, but the mental strain or the emotional strain that he’s gone through is very difficult.”
Jonathan M. Alexander contributed to this article.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan