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Archive for Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Keegan: Giles gets it: D key

February 22, 2006

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In the depths of a midseason slump, Kansas University sophomore C.J. Giles cleared his head and embraced a mantra he repeated over and over to himself and anyone who cared to listen: "Focus on defense, and the offense will come."

The offense came Tuesday night, when Giles supplied an energetic performance that didn't fit the atypically sluggish atmosphere in Allen Fieldhouse, where KU got Baylor out of the way, 76-61.

Through all the yawns, Giles played in a way that made it clear that this team that has won 10 in a row with mostly blowout victories has a chance to get even better if the shot-blocking, pass-deflecting big man who moves like a perimeter player can produce consistently enough to merit big-time minutes.

In 17 minutes, Giles totaled 10 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal, lending substance and style to a victory that for stretches was lacking in both areas.

Giles showcased his quickness and explosive leaping ability with a blocked shot he swatted off the glass as the shot clock was close to expiring.

He showed his offensive (or as Rick Majerus would say, oh-ffensive) improvement by scoring in a variety of ways. He made all four free throws. Each of his three field goals was memorable. There was the turn-and-face jumper from the baseline, a jump hook and a swished 16-footer.

Giles looks more active than ever defensively and more natural offensively than in the past, when he looked like a player who was trying to showcase his skills instead of just playing winning basketball.

Giles, in the words of coach Bill Self, adds "a whole other dimension to this team."

Relatively new to the game, Giles didn't play for a high school team until he was a junior. That's a lot to process for a player of any size and aptitude, much moreso for a player who is 6-foot-10.

Part of learning to play basketball is coming to the realization that the best path to improvement is to block out every other voice, no matter how familiar or how flattering the words, and identify only one voice as that of the truth, the one that belongs to the coach. It's also the best path to playing time. Giles was getting more of that in the nonconference season, when he averaged 22 minutes, compared to 12 minutes in Big 12 Conference play.

"I was just focusing more on how I could be a lot better than I was last year offensively, and that really messed me up," Giles said. "When I was messing up, I wanted to please coach and just work on my offense, but the coaches said just focus on defense and the offense will come."

It came against Baylor not only for him, but for fellow big men Julian Wright (career-high 20 points) and Darnell Jackson, who bounced back from the flu with 11 points and five boards in 20 minutes. The 80 minutes divided by the five post players produced 46 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocks and four steals.

That production came at home against the weakest, youngest team in the conference. Next up is a road game against the strongest team in the Big 12. With Giles on the rise and Wright reaching new heights each time out, the Jayhawks appear up for the challenge.

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