Last night at the LA Hotel in Los Angeles, California—Gatorade’s annual Athlete of the Year Awards honored 12 high school athletes for their athletic and academic achievements as well as for their character. Professional athletes like LeBron James, Derek Jeter, and Peyton Manning are among some of the past winners of the prestigious award.
This year, Jayson Tatum took it home. Tatum finished high school ranked number three overall in the ESPN 100, averaging 29.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and is a part of the Duke Blue Devils’ recruiting class.
We had the chance for a quick Q&A with the young up-and-comer about his sport, focus, and commitment—plus, how working out and diet makes a difference.
MEN’S FITNESS: How did you find your sport?
JAYSON TATUM: My dad played—high-school basketball, and college. And he played professionally overseas. Ever since I remember, I had a basketball in my hand. I grew to love it. I just continue to work at it and get better at it.
MF: What’s the most memorable thing you learned from your father?
JAYSON TATUM: Some skills from basketball, but more so, guidelines about being a man. He taught me so much. And my mom. Growing up in a single parent home my entire life, ya know? I owe her the world—she’s the reason why I’m here.
MF: Being your age, how do you stay so focused and committed?
JAYSON TATUM: My parents—they keep me level-headed. I have great role models, too. I look up to people like Cam Newton and Bradley Beal, and Karl-Anthony Towns—I see those guys and where they’re at and I want to be there one day.
MF: How does training and nutrition fit into your routine?
JAYSON TATUM: Things have kind of changed now that I’ve got to college. I’ve been there the entire summer. We work out a lot as a team, we have a nutritionist, we do aerobics, spin class, yoga, lift, and we do “basketball” workouts. Almost every night I’m in the gym along with a few other teammates, even at midnight, getting exercise. All things like that help you along the way.
MF: Where do you see yourself in three to five years?
JAYSON TATUM: Hopefully, playing in the NBA one day. Making my dream come true and being able to make my parents proud and support my family.
MF: Do you have a pre-game routine?
JAYSON TATUM: I usually work out, or get some type of basketball workout in about an hour an half before the game to get warm. And right before I walk out on the court I say a quick prayer—and thank God for everything and my ability.
MF: What’s the best advice you can give the guys even younger than yourself that are coming up?
JAYSON TATUM: If you have a dream, always hold onto that, and never let someone tell you can’t achieve that—no matter where you’re from, how your life started growing up. Anything is possible.
More from Gatorade’s Athlete of the Year Awards: