Giddens: Feeling Fierce

Mid season of his freshman year J.R. Giddens showed up on the court with a slightly different look. He still had the headband and was still was prone to a chest thumping victory yell after an especially heart-pumping play. He also had a panther tattoo peering out from his left bicep.

"I think it represents me well. I am not the biggest guy out there, but I am fierce," explained Giddens.

"And maybe kinda sneaky," Giddens added, shifting his eyes from side to side in an exaggerated motion to illustrate his point.

"I don't know, I was feeling the panther. It is powerful and sleek. I got a good vibe from it and now it is on me for life."

The ink on his arm is not the only change Giddens underwent during his first season at Kansas that will stick with him for life. Not even close. He is more focused, he has toned down just a bit, and he has more of a sense of commitment and team unity.

"I am trying to approach the season differently. Last year, like most freshman, I just wanted to get out there and play. I mean, I always wanted to win but this year I'm really going in knowing more of what it takes to win a national championship," said Giddens.

And what does it take to win a national title? Come March, sixty-four teams will be searching for the answer to that question.

"It starts with practice all year round," said Giddens. "Now we are used to coaches system and we are better prepared. I know I am better prepared anyway."

Besides another year of experience, the preseason four-game Canadian tour contributed to Giddens' feeling more equipped as the season approached.

"The Canada trip and extra practices were excellent. It was all about coming together as a team and trying to gel with each other and get an understanding of how we all play," explained Giddens.

"It was an opportunity to let the freshman get some time under their belt, hit a couple of shots and get some confidence. If you have confidence, I think you can do anything."

Giddens keyed in on confidence as being an important piece of the puzzle.

"I think that will be really important this season, to be confident in ourselves and our teammates."

Five of those teammates are the new freshman. A year older and perhaps a year wiser, Giddens has some advice for the highly touted incoming group.

"Try to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as they can. They should listen to everything that comes out of Keith's mouth, Aaron's mouth, Wayne's mouth," said Giddens, referencing the senior leaders on the team.

"Maybe even a little bit of what I say, but I don't know because I talk a lot," he finished with a grin.

"We all need to be a student of the game. That is what I try to do. My dad sometimes tells me it is a thinking man's game."

The preseason games had an obvious benefit for the team and players. Giddens also hopes they brought something to the schools they visited around Vancouver, an area with impressive basketball interest in a country not exactly known for its rabid hoops fans.

"We hope all the fans in Canada left with smiles on their faces. I hope the Canadians saw Kansas is a class act and we play hard. I hope they saw we have a passion for the game and a love for one another," said Giddens.

"Maybe we even encouraged some kids to work hard by letting them see what it is like to play at this level. We all worked hard to get here. Lots of kids have dreams," continued Giddens.

"I had dreams. And here I am."

Here he is. Not the biggest guy, not the most experienced, and still learning to be a student of the game. But J.R. Giddens is feeling fierce, focused, and ready to attack the season with confidence.

***

Originally published in the November issue of Jayhawk Illustrated magazine.

J.R. Giddens was 3-for-5 from three-point range against Vermont in the season opener. At his current career percentage of 41.0 (77-187), the Oklahoma City guard would rank in a tie for seventh on the KU career three-point list. Giddens' three treys against the Catamounts marked the 23rd time in his brief career that he has made multiple three-pointers.

Tonight Giddens and the Jayhawks take on Saint Joseph at 9:00 pm at Allen Fieldhouse.


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