Jeremy Case is slowly but surely adjusting to life without J.R. Giddens, his Kansas University roommate of two years.
"I've handled it pretty well," Case, a red-shirt sophomore from McAlester, Okla., said of the June 30 announcement that Giddens, an Oklahoma City junior, had decided to leave KU's team. "When I first heard it, I was shocked, kind of sitting there in a daze. I couldn't believe it: 'Wow, he's really leaving.' I didn't expect it at all.
"Then I got to thinking, 'Yeah, it's going to be better for him and all of us.' It's tough losing a friend, losing a teammate - we were really close - but seeing it's best for him, it's OK, it's OK."
Giddens, who has announced plans to attend the University of New Mexico, would have been in an unenviable situation had he stayed at KU, said Case, who now rooms with Seattle sophomore C.J. Giles.
"It's going to be over his head a long time," Case said of Giddens' being connected to the May 19 melee outside Lawrence's Moon Bar that resulted in Giddens' suffering a slashed artery in his right calf. "For him to leave, it'll take some of that burden off him, some of that spotlight off him in regards to that situation. Being here, it'd stay with him and keep lingering on."
That wouldn't be good for Giddens or a young KU team that will rely on contributions from McDonald's All- Americans Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright.
"Everywhere we go, people would bring it up," Case said.
Case said it had been tough for him to read published reports that quote individuals who say Giddens started the fight outside Moon Bar.
"It bothers me. The media is making J.R. out to be the bad guy, and he is not that way," Case said. "I feel like the media is not giving J.R. the respect he deserves.
"If they look at this other guy, what he's done and magnify that : they shouldn't be making J.R. out to be bad guy."
Case was referring to the man accused of stabbing Giddens and others - Jeremiah Creswell - who has had some legal problems.
"I try to stay away from it. I don't read the newspaper. If it comes on the news, I turn the channel," Case said. "I want to stay out of it. I heard all kinds of different stories. I wasn't there that night. I didn't know exactly what happened."
Case said he envisioned a time KU fans would be talking only about basketball again.
"I am thinking we'll have to wait until all that investigation is over with before it'll all end," Case said of the police probe, which has been turned over to the district attorney for review.
Giddens' departure on paper opens up even more playing time for the 6-foot-1 Case, who has seen two other perimeter players - Alex Galindo and Nick Bahe - transfer.
"I think so," Case said, "but I wouldn't necessarily say just because they left. I definitely have helped my position, but I don't want to look at it that way at all."
He likes what he's seen in recent pick-up games.
"It's always hard when you lose a key player. The thing is, this hurts us but also helps us," Case said. "Young guys have got to step up. People have got to work harder. It pushes us to give us more a drive to work harder."
KU coach Bill Self said recently he expected seniors Christian Moody, Jeff Hawkins and Stephen Vinson and third-year player Case to be team leaders.
"We're the ones with experience. I haven't played much, but I have been here, seen how we do things at Kansas. I can definitely step in and be a leader," Case said.
¢ Proud of papa: Case's dad, Win, in April accepted the head-basketball coaching and athletic director job at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton, Okla.
Win Case, a teammate of Self's at Oklahoma State, went 315-96 and won a pair of NAIA national titles in 13 seasons at Oklahoma City University.
"He's happy. He'll travel a lot trying to get good players," Case said. "He thinks he will help turn it around there in basketball and do good things. I expect good things from him."
¢ Coach on Giddens: New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay spoke to the Albuquerque Tribune about Giddens. "J.R. needed a place like Albuquerque, N.M., and our rabid fans to help him continue with his fresh start," the coach said. "There was also the fact that he was interested that we went to the NCAAs and had the 17th pick in the draft (Danny Granger).
"We wouldn't have taken him if we thought it was a bad fit. What man, myself included, who when his life is played on a screen would not be embarrassed by something or wished they could do something different. J.R. has acknowledged his mistakes in the incident and I feel very comfortable with him. He has a clean slate with us."
¢ Rules: Case, who like his coach won't mention specifics, said there were new rules regarding behavior expected of players.
"Coach is a little bit more protective of what we do. He gave us a few more restrictions, things like that," Case said. "I wouldn't necessarily say he's harder on us because he was always hard on us. He's definitely constantly giving us advice, telling us be careful, watch what we do, that people are always watching us; we're in the spotlight, the glass house. He's always keeping it in our minds which is good to hear that."
Case said restrictions wouldn't spoil the experience of being a college student.
"I don't think it'll ruin it. I honestly think it's good," Case said. "We need to be focused on what we're trying to achieve right now. I know this is summer and everything : you want to have fun, but this is when players are made - in the summer. It may not be as fun as you want it to be. In the long run it'll pay off for us."
¢ Peach Jam: Rivals.com reports seeing Self scouting several players Tuesday at the Nike Peach Jam in Georgia. They include Spencer Hawes, 6-11, 225, Seattle; Brandan Wright, 6-9, 200, Nashville, Tenn.; Vernon Macklin, 6-9, 190, Portsmouth, Va.; and Duke Crews, 6-7, 235, Hampton, Va.