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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Jayhawks add another Oklahoma junior

April 29, 2002

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The weekend proved productive for Kansas University's men's basketball team.

On Sunday two days after securing an oral commitment from ballyhooed Oklahoma junior guard Jeremy Case the Jayhawks picked up another pledge from another heralded junior guard from the Sooner State. The Jayhawks have five scholarships available for the 2002-03 class.

J.R. Giddens, a 6-foot-5 guard from Oklahoma City John Marshall High and AAU teammate of Case's, confirmed Sunday he, too, had given Kansas an oral commitment.

"It was easy to decide," Giddens said. "There's always something in the back of your mind, but when you put out what's good and what's bad for you, I decided there's no other place for me to be than Kansas."

Giddens and Case are two of the best juniors in Oklahoma. They ranked 1-2 in scoring in the state's Class 5A last season. Case led the state at 25.4 points per game, and Giddens was right behind at 25.0.

"J.R. Giddens is a great prospect," said Albert Johnson, an assistant coach on Giddens' and Case's AAU team. "If I had to pick one, there's no question it'd be J.R. The sky's the limit with him. I'm just so disappointed I won't have the pleasure to coach J.R. for the next four years. He's going to blossom under coach (Roy) Williams' system. I see great things for him. He has so much God-given talent. In my opinion, he's the best prospect we've had in these states in years."

Giddens also averaged 7.2 rebounds a game last season. He picked KU over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Illinois. A high school track and field athlete who has cleared 6-foot-10 in the high jump, Giddens attended Late Night with Roy Williams last fall and came to the Baylor-Kansas game on Feb. 16 in Lawrence.

He made his official recruiting visit on Thursday and Friday.

"Kansas gave me a home," Giddens said. "I just felt it was the right place for me. I like the playing style and I like coach Williams. It should take me to the best of my abilities. It's a relief to have this over with. Now I won't have people showing up at my school every day, all these people calling you. I can sleep at night now."

Giddens also found comfort in knowing Case, his teammate on the AAU team Athletes First of Oklahoma City, will go with him to KU.

"It feels good knowing we've played together," Giddens said. "We know our chemistry on the court. I won't have to get used to him or somebody new."

Giddens hit 55 percent of his field goals and 48 percent of his three-point shots last season.

"J.R. is more of an athletic wing forward than Jeremy," said recruiting expert Greg Swaim. "J.R. is an extremely good athlete. He can leap and it just takes your breath away. He's getting better and better on shooting and ball-handling. (Ex-Jayhawk) Kenny Gregory is a good comparison. He's a better shooter than Kenny Gregory, but it's a good comparison. J.R. is more flamboyant. He wears his heart on his sleeve."

He has done that since he was a toddler, his mother, Dianna Giddens, recalled.

"He's always been competitive," Dianna Giddens said, "ever since he was 2 years old. He'd get on his tricycle and have the girls get on their bicycles, and he'd insist they race him. If he lost and he'd lose, because he'd be on a tricycle and they'd be on bicycles he'd just get off his trike and cry. He's just competitive.

"He's been playing basketball since he was 4, organized since he was 6. He played football, basketball, track he's just always had a competitive nature. But basketball's always been his dream. Ever since he could write, all he could write was 'basketball player.'"

Dianna wanted her son to stay closer to home, but she didn't stand in his way.

"Kansas just stole his heart on his first visit," she said. "Roy Williams is a very smart man when it comes to the program. It's just a complete package for a kid."

Former KU assistant coach Neil Dougherty, new head coach at Texas Christian University, didn't hurt the Jayhawks' case.

"Coach Dougherty told J.R., 'I'd love to have you, but if you've been offered a scholarship to Kansas, you'll be going into a No. 1 university. There's no way I could tell a kid not to go there,'" Dianna Giddens said. "He praised Roy Williams and his program. He said if by any fluke of nature, through the grace of God, he could get J.R., he'd love to have him, but he couldn't go wrong going to Kansas."

Giddens and Case can't make their nonbinding commitments binding until November's national letter-of-intent signing period.

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Visits update: Giddens wasn't the only prep recruit in town the past couple of days, but he's the only one to commit.

David Padgett, a 6-11, 240-pounder from Reno, Nev., and Omar Wilkes, a 6-2 guard from Los Angeles Loyola High, spent the weekend at KU and both reported Sunday they enjoyed their visits.

But neither will commit to a school until the fall.

"It was a fun trip," Padgett said. "The town itself and the campus are a lot different than I thought they'd be. It's not flat like everybody thinks. It's a nice town."

Added Wilkes, "It was awesome. But I'm going to wait until the fall. Kansas is high on my list. I like the family atmosphere between the coaches and the team. They treat each others like brothers. It sounds corny, but it's true."

Padgett, who already has visited Arizona and Stanford, said he hadn't decided if he'd make his two other allowed recruiting trips.

"If I do," he said, "I won't go until the fall. I'm in no rush."

The trip to Kansas was Wilkes' first official visit. He said he might visit Stanford, Florida, UCLA and USC in the fall.

"There's no clear leader," he said. "I'm keeping it totally open. But Kansas, obviously, has a head start. It's the first school I got to know a lot about."

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