First of all, let me state that Kansas is very much about what's displayed on the front of the jersey-- it's the name that's identifiable -- and one of its own has managed to cast the "Kansas" name in negative light.
But I'm not here to rehash the details of Gidden's stabbing. I'm not here to give my opinion on the matter, nor am I here to judge the Kansas forward. I'll leave that to law enforcement officials and the Kansas coaching staff. I can only discuss the possible basketball-related ramifications for J.R.
So far, the Oklahoma City native's career at Kansas has been littered with offseason injuries. Between his senior year of high school and freshmen stint at KU he endured surgery on his foot for a stress fracture. Last summer, it was surgery for torn meniscus in his right knee and another surgical procedure for a fractured left foot. Most of the summer of '04 was spent on crutches or in a protective boot and the All-Big XII freshman selection wasn't cleared to play until August. Now this.
I know this much – Giddens is home in Oklahoma City nursing a stab wound, isolated from his teammates, and again missing out on a chance to get better.
Arguably, of KU's returning crop of players no one would've benefited more from a summer full of "work" more then the Kansas three-point marksman. In the end Kansas basketball and J.R. would've reaped the benefits. That doesn't mean Giddens is lacking talent – quite the contrary – the potential has always been there and the timing seemed right for him to step up and take his game to the next level. He was ready, willing, and able to accomplish this goal.
Though he sports an extremely quick release on his jumper, a lengthy wing span, and a wealth of athletic ability, admittedly J.R. has room to improve. He has often been saddled with the label of a "one-dimensional player" who settles for the jumper too often. The high-flying Giddens has wowed the Allen Fieldhouse crowd with dunks in the open floor, but rarely have we seen him utilize the bounce to get to the rim in the halfcourt. Seems like a shame to not fully utilize all that athletic ability because from a vertical standpoint he looks like a sure-fire NBA success. To J.R.'s credit, he was smart enough to recognize his shortcomings and put his NBA career on hold. He realized progress was crucial to his future success as a basketball player and wasn't willing to sit on an NBA bench and "learn".
It's cliché at this point, but oh so true - the offseason is where players are made. It's where Illinois guard Dee Brown became more accurate with his jumper, Carolina's Sean May added more moves to his repertoire in the post and UCONN's Emeka Okafor transformed from a marginal recruit to the #2 pick in the 2004 NBA draft.
Transforming your game DURING the season is not impossible, but it is improbable. If you're going to enhance your game for the better it's going to happen between the months of May-September. This is when the gym becomes a second home. It's a time to concentrate on drilling yourself in the areas in which you wish to progress and a time to challenge yourself against "better" competition in one-on-one, two-on-two, and pick up game settings.
For many of the 2004-2005 Jayhawks, player development is well-underway. Two of KU's three talented freshmen are already on campus (Micah Downs will arrive by the weekend) working out and taking part in pick up games. The early returns state several players have added some bulk to their frames including Russell Robinson, who has reportedly gained over 20 pounds of muscle. We've also heard the stories of USC transfer Roderick Stewart shooting and making hundreds of jumpers. According to assistant coach Joe Dooley on Rock Chalk Radio Tuesday, it's been a productive period for the returning Jayhawks – but unfortunately not for J.R. Giddens.
It's not that the explosive wingman isn't capable of becoming the player he wants to be, he just hasn't had the chance. Injuries hurt the Jayhawks last season as 3 of their big guns spent part of the summer on the sidelines. Keith Langford, Wayne Simien and Giddens were all out of action for a period of time and Self is well-aware how important this time of year is.
"A summer is wasted without individual improvement" and that was a comment the KU Head Coach made prior to the Giddens incident.