Saturday, July 23, 2005

Giddens speaks … but not about melee

Former KU basketball player expects to heal fully from slashing


J.R. Giddens received the best possible news from his family doctor on Friday in Oklahoma City.

"Full recovery, they say," said Giddens, the former Kansas University basketball guard who sustained a slashed artery in his right calf in a melee May 19 outside Lawrence's Moon Bar.

That incident led to his leaving KU's program on June 30.

Giddens -- he announced his plans to transfer to the University of New Mexico on July 9 -- granted an exclusive interview to the Journal-World Friday, his first interview with a media member covering KU basketball since the Moon Bar incident.

Giddens declined to answer questions about the Moon Bar melee and/or whether he thought charges would be filed in the case, but he spoke his mind on his transfer.

Giddens reiterated it was his and coach Bill Self's mutual decision to leave the program, squashing any speculation he was forced to depart.

"The situation is, it's best for KU to have a fresh start and J.R. to have a fresh start," Giddens said. "I told coach Self it's best for both of us. We agreed on that and have no hard feelings toward each other.

"I am perfectly OK with coach Self. He's a great person as well as coach. He's a solid, all-around good guy. I appreciated getting to interact with him as a person. I appreciate him letting me be part of the program. I will miss the players and coaching staff and playing in Allen Fieldhouse. But it's time for a fresh start, for Kansas and J.R. to move on."

Giddens surprised some fans by choosing New Mexico after making just one visit the weekend of July 8-9.

He had planned, perhaps, to visit Tennessee, Florida, Washington, Pittsburgh and Memphis.

"I didn't need to go anywhere else. The visit there was phenomenal," Giddens said of his campus visit to New Mexico which led to his commitment.

"Coach McKay ... this guy seems like he believes in my talents," Giddens said of New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay. "When I met him, we talked more about J.R. the person than J.R. the player. He is a Christian coach, felt I could become a better person and build a better relationship with God, which is the most important part of my life now.

"Basketball is important. It's more important to build a better relationship with the Lord. Coach McKay will help me with that as well."

Giddens -- he plans on starting shooting and dribbling drills immediately, indicating Friday he'll positively be ready for the start of practice in October -- said he never considered playing overseas a year before entering the NBA Draft. He'll have to sit out a year at New Mexico in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

"Oh, man ... I want to get an education," Giddens said. "It's something I can fall back on. I'll be a junior by the time I step on the court for New Mexico. After my junior season, I should be graduating or close to it. I'm on time to graduate. That's a good idea to go to Europe, but I want the degree."

A communications major, Giddens said until he arrived at Albuquerque for fall-semester classes, it wouldn't hit him he no longer was a Jayhawk.

"My mom has a lot of pictures of me on the computer wearing No. 15. I look at them and say, 'Man, I'm not going to be a Jayhawk anymore.' I'll miss the fieldhouse, the fans, coaches, players, being in Lawrence. It was a very good place to play, but I'm a Lobo now and wear a different uniform. I'm going to miss being there, but it's time to leave."

What if KU and New Mexico play in the future?

"It would be weird, especially in the fieldhouse. I'm an emotional person. It would be an emotional game but it's a game and I'd obviously want to win," Giddens said.


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