Guard will be eligible in 2006-07 season
Former Kansas wing J.R. Giddens wanted a fresh start, to rebuild his basketball career and his life.
So, he chose New Mexico, where he clicked with head coach Ritchie McKay after the two talked not just about the game, but about his transformation as a person.
"Everybody that was scouting me was only looking at me as a talent while coach McKay talked to me about changing as a person, too," Giddens told ESPN.com Sunday morning. "He lives by the Lord and we talked a lot about that. This team is really a family and I wanted to be a part of this. I wasn't planning on committing on my visit but it just happened."
Giddens completed his recruiting visit Sunday after arriving Friday. This was his only visit. He had a tentative visit set up for Tennessee next week. He also was close to scheduling one for Florida. Pittsburgh, Washington, Arizona State and UTEP had all inquired about him.
McKay came off the road from recruiting high school players to meet Giddens in Albuquerque. McKay spent the first day of the evaluation period in Oklahoma City watching Giddens work out, albeit light shooting, on July 6.
Giddens was essentially pushed out of Kansas after his involvement in a Lawrence brawl on May 19. An announcement came from the school on July 1. Giddens suffered a severed artery in his right calf during the fight and needed surgery to close the wound. Giddens isn't expected to be cleared to play basketball until September.
Giddens would have been Kansas' top returning scorer, averaging 10 points a game last season. Kansas coach Bill Self had penciled in Giddens to be the go-to scorer before the brawl. The 6-5 Giddens was signed by former Kansas coach Roy Williams.
"Sitting out will help me," Giddens said. "I can spend the year becoming a better player and a better person. I want to learn his system and be a strong part of practice."
The Lobos sold Giddens on trying to do what Danny Granger did, which was lead the Lobos to the NCAA Tournament in his second season and become a first-round NBA draft pick. Giddens will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. The Lobos, who won the Mountain West tournament last March, also picked up Penn State forward Aaron Johnson, who will sit out next season.
"That will help because we'll be going through the same thing," Giddens said of Johnson.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.