Archive for Monday, September 26, 2005

Keegan: Hoops good for Giles

September 26, 2005

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Tune your TV to a college basketball game, keep your eyes closed, and listen to the announcer: "This kid is what college basketball is all about."

Without opening your eyes, you should be able to describe the player fairly accurately. He's white. He's short, and so is his hair. He's vocal and claps his hands a lot.

Often, the announcer really means, "This kid is what college basketball used to be like way back when."

When I put a person to the phrase "what college basketball is all about," I think of C.J. Giles. College basketball is his vehicle to a degree and a better life than he seems convinced he would have carved for himself if not for basketball. During a recent interview in Kansas University's player lounge, Giles looked back on his life as a freshman in high school.

"I wasn't playing at all," Giles said. "I was not doing anything. I was just out there. I could not see myself going to college or even graduating high school."

Why not?

"I just went through a lot when I was younger," Giles said. "I was just in the streets. I changed my whole focus when I saw a lot of guys back in Seattle, a lot of athletic guys, a lot of tall guys, in the streets doing nothing, and I didn't want to do that. I wanted something better for myself. That's why I started playing basketball."

He told his father, former KU player Chester Giles, he wanted to give basketball a serious shot. Chester arranged a transfer to powerhouse Rainer High, where C.J. said he didn't gain eligibility until his junior year because the school was accused of recruiting.

The game doesn't come as quickly to big men. That's what's so intriguing about Giles. Once it clicks, how much better can he become?

Brandon Rush wasn't in the program a year ago, but he likes what he sees so far.

"C.J.'s an athletic big man," said Rush, who played AAU ball with young NBA star Dwight Howard. "He does it all now. Somehow, he's got a little stroke now from 15 feet. Everybody's talking about how much better he's gotten."

When a big man develops a perimeter game, that can be a bad thing, if that means he's avoiding the paint.

"It can be a good thing, too, now," Rush disagreed. "I think it's a good thing here."

What will Jayhawks fans see new this year?

"I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable shooting," Giles said. "They are going to see me using my athleticism more. The only way they saw that last year was for blocked shots. This year, I'm going to do that and a couple of dunks. I'm going to try to be like that guy from Syracuse. What's his name again? That big, long dude."

Hakim Warrick?

"Hakim Warrick," Giles echoed. "He's just a little bit longer than me."

With a year of college experience, Giles feels more grounded.

"Last year around this time, I was real raw, and I didn't really know the whole system," he said. "I was still kind of intimidated by all the seniors because they had been here for a while and had been through the whole system, and I was just trying to learn everything."

Learning isn't easy, especially during basketball boot camp, which starts today, but it sure beats hanging out doing nothing.

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