From the beginning, Daniel Giddens bore the look of a defensive master. A 6-8 freshman in the 2011 spring, Giddens possessed a sturdy frame, impressive mobility and a desire to get physical. That last trait has been increasingly difficult to find in the era of face-up, finesse big men, and Giddens always has provided a refreshing change of pace.
But his offense left a great deal to the imagination, and in the years following his initial breakthrough, skepticism began to emerge that he’d simply never become an effective post scorer.
Still, by the fall of his junior year at Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler, Giddens had drawn scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Louisville, Marquette, Maryland, N.C. State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Vanderbilt and others. He had sprouted to 6-10 and, in terms of his recruitment, there never was a moment of doubt.
He entered last spring generally considered a top-50 prospect and one who’d address a team’s defensive needs while requiring a running mate who could provide the scoring. And while that opinion still holds some truth, Giddens undeniably has made major strides over the past nine months.
He toured with EYBL circuit with Each1Teach1, combining with elite peers such as Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney. He played his role dutifully for a loaded, successful squad, despite his club falling short at the Peach Jam.
Giddens committed to Ohio State in early July, ending his recruitment prior to the live period for college coaches. Not that he needed more attention than he already had, but his play during the summer marked his highest moments yet. His numbers on EYBL were modest — six points and five rebounds per game — but also misleading due to the presence of such talented teammates.
He made the move to Oak Hill Academy for his senior season and aims to continue his evolution as a complete player.
Without question, defense remains Giddens’ primary attribute. He’s a tall, strong big man who understands that defense is a positional thing, rather than simply stalking blocked shots.
Watching Giddens last weekend for Oak Hill, he moved his feet extremely well to deny his opponents position and used his leverage to keep them off-balance. He’ll be so far ahead of the curve as a college freshman that his technique will catch many by surprise. The Buckeyes’ coaches clearly know what they have incoming, however, and he could emerge as a defensive asset who earns significant early playing time.
|Physically and mentally, Giddens is prepared for college competition|
And none of that is to say Giddens fails to make an impact as a shot-swatter. In fact, it’s one of the things he does best, as he averaged 2.6 per game in 22 games this year with E1T1. He gets straight-up blocks thanks to his positioning and discipline, and he’s sufficiently athletic to leap over to the help side as well.
Meanwhile, he has raised his offensive game impressively. Giddens still has a long journey to travel before he’s a consistent post-up option, but at least he’s finishing far better than he did in the past. He uses short hook shots at the rim and also has acquired improved touch scoring off the glass.
And with his size, strength and above-average hops, he’s naturally an effective dunker as well.
Giddens’ commitment to competition without needing to shoot frequently makes him all the more valuable. Realistically, he’s unlikely to score many points as an underclassman, but he’ll remain engaged with the competition despite that.
He won’t need to be the man in college because he doesn’t need to be the man now, and thus his playing style adjustment will be minimal compared to that of most blue-chip high school players.
Clearly, Giddens must improve his scoring. There’s a lot to be said for designated defenders — and especially in college — but for the long-term he needs to add wrinkles.
At present, he doesn’t score consistently with his back to the basket or facing, and his hands at times have been so-so. That’s also why he hasn’t always rebounded as well as one would expect, given his physical assets. Hands are difficult to improve and certainly correlate with his lacking scoring, and he’ll simply have to do better than the 44 percent (24-55) from the foul line he shot with E1T1.
That’s the kind of percentage that forces a coach to pull a talented player in a close game while holding a lead, and Giddens obviously will want to make himself viable in those scenarios.
Let’s divide his projection into halves. There’s the Giddens I expect to see as a freshman and sophomore, one who gives the team a physical presence and defensive stalwart at a time when some very good big men have entered college basketball.
By the time he reaches his junior year, however, I suspect that an athlete with his work ethic and desire to improve will add some semblance of balance. As he continues to improve his hook shots and interior finishing in traffic, Giddens could make a push for some version of the all-Big Ten team before his time at OSU is finished.