A long, hard road
J.R. Giddens has had an interesting life in basketball. High school success was supposed to be the start of sky's-the-limit potential. Trouble followed at Kansas, then a rocky start in New Mexico. Now, the success

By Jason Singer Published: July 1, 2008
When J.R. Giddens left John Marshall High School for the University of Kansas, the high-flying wingman was expected to succeed.

Giddens was a McDonald's High School All-American. He could seemingly jump from Oklahoma City to Lawrence. And Scout.com, which ranks prep basketball players, named Giddens the 13th best high school player in the country in 2003, behind current NBA stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva.

So is being drafted 30th overall by the Boston Celtics at the NBA Draft a disappointment?

With the road Giddens has traveled, not likely.

"But not me, I'm not disappointed,” Giddens said. "I feel truly blessed. I feel honored. Going 30th in the NBA Draft is a privilege. I get to play professional basketball for a living — that's a privilege. I'm on Cloud Nine.”

Which is better than where he has been.

After arriving at Kansas, Giddens earned Big 12 All-Freshmen honors and helped the Jayhawks reach the Elite Eight in his first season. But in May 2005, he was involved in a bar fight during which he was stabbed with a knife in the right calf. The wound required 30 stitches. His reputation suffered even more damage.

"If you had to peg a Kansas basketball player most likely to get involved in an ugly brawl, it would be Giddens,” an article in the Kansas City Star said. The negative environment weighed on Giddens. He left KU and decided to transfer to the University of New Mexico.

"Worst time in my life,” he said. "I was a young kid, immature. I made a bad decision.”

Giddens chose the Lobos based on head coach Ritchie McKay's success. The previous year, McKay's team was 26-7 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

But Giddens' demons followed him out west. Although he posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists his junior year, New Mexico's struggles frustrated him. He grew upset. He lashed out at coaches and teammates and McKay eventually suspended him indefinitely for his attitude.

"I had a bit of an attitude at that time and I really needed to work on being a better teammate,” Giddens said.

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