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June 15, 2008

Giddens had special game before college

Once upon a time they were just kids.

They weren't yet stooping to get through doorways or hitting jumpers from everywhere. They weren't yet identified as future millionaires.

But they already possessed the type of talent and desire that would allow them eventually to realize their dreams.

As part of its NBA Draft coverage, Rivals.com has ventured to find the stories behind the stories. We have talked to the high school coaches of potential draft picks to ask where these players came from and what separated them from the rest of the crop.

Don't be surprised if you find some common traits in each of these prospects.

High school: Oklahoma city (Okla.) John Marshall Coach: John Martin
When is the first time you remember thinking J.R. could play professionally someday?
"I saw him play with Athletes First, an AAU team that has a lot of other really good players, the summer before his senior year in 2002. I saw him make a couple 3-pointers and catch an alley-oop dunk. That was eye-opening. I had never coached a kid with that kind of ability. I thought, 'This kid has a good chance.' "

What game sticks out the most in your memory when you look back on his high school career?
"The first game of his senior year. He had 14 points in the first quarter. He caught another alley-oop on a backdoor play we had set up and he hit a couple more 3-pointers. A lot is made about his ability to jump and that he can touch the top of the square. But he can really shoot the ball. He was a great shooter in high school and had NBA range.

"We also had a game that year against Midwest City when they had Darnell Jackson, who played with J.R. at Kansas. He and J.R. had grown up playing against each other and were good friends. We were up by eight to 10 points late in the game and were just trying to slow the game down. J.R. had the ball near halfcourt in the corner and Darnell was guarding him. He blew right past Darnell, made two dribbles, jumped over a player trying to take a charge and dunked it. I wished YouTube was around back then because I would have put it on there. The guy he jumped over was about 5-10. My jaw just dropped when he dunked it."

How often do you keep in touch with him?
"The last time I talked to him was when he was making the decision on whether to go to New Mexico. He had met with (Kansas coach) Bill Self, who had told him it might be good for him to try somewhere else. I think it was good for J.R. to take another year off and mature a little bit."

When do you expect him to get drafted?
"I don't know what teams are looking at him, but I'm sure that in the workouts people are going to be impressed. He's got a great vertical leap, can shoot the ball and can run. He's just an amazing athlete.

"I spoke to someone from the Cleveland Cavaliers who wanted to know about his character and how he would adapt to the NBA lifestyle. When we first had him, people warned me about behavioral issues, but he was always one of my favorite kids. He would do anything to play. If I dismissed him from practice, he would be distraught. He'd come back the next day and apologize to the whole team."

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