Phog.net readers were first introduced to J.R. Giddens over two years ago. Many fans got their first glimpse of the recruit at the Kansas City Invitational prep invitational in June of 2002 and returned with rave reviews. Others peeked into the pick up games this summer in an effort to preview the ability - as well as the flamboyance - Giddens was becoming known for.
"I think (J.R. Giddens) has toned down quite a bit," said Coach Bill Self last week. "I think he has really matured a lot."
But has Giddens given up his flashy persona? No way. Self once joked he should be called "Hollywood" and the name still fits.
"His energy and how animated he is are his biggest positives," said Self. "I love that. I would much rather coach a guy with a lot of energy than a guy that you have to prod all of the time. He has always taken coaching well."
Self – and most of the rest of the hoops world - has routinely referred to Giddens as an exceptionally gifted athlete with amazing raw talent.
"He's tough and competitive," stated Self. "I have been fortunate to coach a lot of good freshmen and (J.R. Giddens) is right up there with the best of them. He has a chance to be one of the best guys I have ever coached -- over time."
Time is something Giddens ran a little short on, thrust into a starting role when Michael Lee was forced to sit out with a broken collarbone. Despite his early season quips and good-humored admissions he was realizing how much he had to learn, Giddens appeared ready for the spotlight. He's scored 117 points so far this season, including a variety of his trademark dunks. While these glitzy plays make the highlight reel, Giddens is working on other aspects of his game.
"I think when guys are taking away (J.R. Giddens') initial shot -- he's driving past them better. It is really positive to see that but the strength of his game is still shooting off the catch," said Self.
But Giddens is still a work in progress. With the onset of conference play, the game is getting tougher.
"He still does some things hopefully he won't do in year two, year three or even later on this season -- because he is young. He's really played well and I thought he did a great job of stepping up in the first time on the road in the Big 12 against Colorado," said Self.
"His defense is getting better but isn't great. He's learning everyday. We probably gave up six to eight points the last game due to breakdowns on defensive transition and not jumping to the ball or having his head turned."
Some spectators might have missed that, distracted by the three 3-pt shots he hit for a team that has been desperate for perimeter offense. As the Jayhawks march through the schedule, it seems likely Giddens will be relied on for offensive production and energizing plays.