Hot on the summer recruiting trail, Bill Self learned of former Kansas University basketball player J.R. Giddens' decision to transfer to the University of New Mexico late Saturday night while working a camp out East.
"I haven't spoken to J.R. about it, but I'm sure he's excited, and we wish him the best there," Self, KU's third-year coach, said Sunday of the 6-foot-5 Giddens' decision to attend the Mountain West Conference school.
Giddens, who must sit out a season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, will be joining a program that went 26-7 in 2004-05 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
"It's a basketball-crazed environment. His past, whatever it is ... it's not something that will hurt him. It's a forgiving community as long as somebody wears the Lobo colors," said Mark Smith, who has covered Lobos basketball for the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal the past eight seasons. "Fans here frankly don't care if he's a Rhodes Scholar or came from Attica."
Giddens was involved in a melee May 19 outside Lawrence's Moon Bar. He suffered a slashed artery in the right calf that could keep him sidelined all summer.
"It's all about winning. There's an incredible expectation here (with fans) that exceeds realism. Everyone here feels it should be a Final Four program year in and out," Smith said, noting the program never has reached the Sweet 16.
The Lobos are about to begin their 40th season playing in The Pit, an 18,000 seat arena in which UNM enjoys a great homecourt advantage.
¢ Keeping the faith: Giddens on Sunday told ESPN's Andy Katz what Giddens' mother told the Journal-World on Saturday night: That the ex-Jayhawk likes the fact fourth-year New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay is a faith-filled man.
"Everybody that was scouting me was only looking at me as a talent while coach McKay talked to me about changing as a person, too," Giddens said. "He lives by the Lord, and we talked a lot about that. This team is really a family and I wanted to be a part of this. I wasn't planning on committing on my visit but it just happened."
Giddens also considered Tennessee, Miami, Florida, Pitt, Arizona State, UTEP, TCU and others.
"Sitting out will help me," Giddens said. "I can spend the year becoming a better player and a better person. I want to learn his system and be a strong part of practice."
¢ Recruiting: Self will continue to recruit until Friday, then, after an NCAA-mandated six-day dead period, will continue recruiting the rest of the month.
"We covered all the major camps," Self said. "For me personally, I spent the majority of time in New Jersey (ABCD camp) and Indianapolis (Nike camp)."
KU has filled one of four scholarships, last spring landing an oral commitment from Dwight Lewis, 6-5 from Metairie, La. Lewis attended the ABCD camp and was ranked 56th best player in attendance by collegehoops.net with an overall grade of C-plus.
"I was excited to get out and see some guys," Self said. "It's an exciting time. Not too many have said no yet. You get excited about potential. You like watching the guys you've been trying to recruit. Our staff has done a good job."
Self has said he wants a big man and guard with good ballhandling skills. The fourth scholarship likely will be saved for the Class of 2007.
¢ Summer-league update: Aaron Miles did not play -- coach's decision -- in his last game with the New York Knicks' summer league team Saturday in Las Vegas.
Former KU point guard Miles, who headed to Seattle on Sunday to play for the Sonics' summer league team, had three points, four assists and one turnover in a loss to Portland; six points, no assists and one turnover in a victory over Orlando.
It's been long assumed Miles will have a better chance of making the roster of Seattle's SuperSonics than the Knicks. The Sonics have just one point guard on the roster, Luke Ridnour. The Knicks have returnee Stephon Marbury and draftee Nate Robinson.
Wayne Simien scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his professional debut, a Miami Heat loss to Toronto on Saturday in Long Beach, Calif. Simien hit seven of 11 shots.
Keith Langford, who is playing for the Dallas Mavericks scored seven points with four boards in a win over Toronto and four points with five boards in a loss to the Lakers. Langford hit 4 of 13 shots combined.
Former KU center Eric Chenowith, also with the Mavs, scored six points with five rebounds in one game.