Former Rainier Beach standout C.J. Giles shifting focus to NBA draft
Former Rainier Beach standout C.J. Giles, kicked off two college teams, is shifting his focus to the NBA draft.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PORTLAND — The sweat shirt is from Oregon State.
So even now, as C.J. Giles prepares for a future beyond college, he is cloaked by his past.
This is his latest last chance. Right here in a Portland gym on the corner of the street, right next to the light-rail track and across from a school. A 425-pound tire sits in the corner of the room and a dozen or so kids from a nearby continuation school filter in for P.E. classes.
Giles sits beside Jerome Kersey. The two tallest men in the room are side by side on a bench, eating lunch from a nearby grocery store. Kersey speaks softly. Giles listens hard, Kersey's words backed up with 17 years of NBA experience.
This is it. One more no-turning-back moment for Giles, who is 22 now and finds himself between his hometown of Seattle and the spot where his college career dead-ended in Corvallis, Ore. He's preparing to enter the NBA draft.
He stands 6 feet 11 inches, so tall and so skilled that he remains a marvel even in the mind of the man who kicked him off Oregon State's team in January.
"The most talented, athletic player I've ever coached," said Kevin Mouton, former Oregon State assistant and interim head coach. "Ever. In 16 years of coaching."
Giles is talented enough to convince three Division I schools to offer him scholarships and been enough trouble that two have asked him to leave — Kansas in 2006 and Oregon State this year.
He stands 15 credits short of his degree, by his count, and has one year of college eligibility remaining, but there's no turning back. Not now. He'll enter the draft, signed as a client of Kersey's Premier Sports International.
"He realizes college is not something he can fall back on," Kersey said. "Now, he has to go into the real world and if he wants to play basketball, this is the time. This is time for the rest of his life."
Time to make the most of things. Just like Kersey did back in the 1980s, a little-known prospect from Division II Longwood in Virginia who was able to participate in the Portsmouth Invitational only after another college senior no-showed.
Kersey's long NBA career stands as multimillion-dollar evidence of a cast-iron work ethic, something he's trying to convey to Giles, whose professional future is nothing more than an act of faith right now.
"If you can couple my work ethic with your skill level, you can make it," he told Giles. "You can make it. And you just don't make it. You want to be there. You want to be a mainstay."
This is Giles' chance to make that happen. One more chance.
End of Oregon State
The call came early on a Monday. Giles hadn't finished rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when the tears started flowing.
Rainier Beach athletic director Dan Jurdy — whom Giles describes as his guardian — called to tell him the Beavers were going to be kicking him off the team.
"I bawled," Giles said.
Coach Jay John was out, fired by Oregon State on Sunday, and Mouton's first move was to kick Giles off the team with a dozen games left in the season.
"In the meeting he said that the real reason why is he just felt like they wanted a fresh, new start," Giles said. "That didn't make any sense."
This wasn't like Kansas, which dismissed him from the team after he was cited for misdemeanor assault, having pulled a woman across his apartment. There was no single transgression to point to in Corvallis. Just an accumulation of things, according to the coach who made the decision.
"There was numerous, I mean numerous, situations of missing practice, missing meetings, not showing up for weights," Mouton said in a recent telephone interview. "Stuff that all of his other teammates were doing. And he just refused to do them."
Mouton has heard people say he just didn't like Giles. Not true, he says. Mouton had Giles over to his house on Thanksgiving. And he still believes Giles will get that first NBA contract. He's too tall and too talented not to.
It was the staying power Mouton worried about. He worried Giles wasn't learning the habits he needed to earn that second contract. He saw Giles idling when he needed to be stepping on the gas.
"His off-the-court stuff has limited his progress," Mouton said.
So Giles ended his Beavers career just like he started it: a spectator. Giles arrived on campus without a scholarship, paying for his first two terms. His grades slipped, he ended up on academic probation. He leaves the school with thousands of dollars of loan debt and a dental bill he said he's fighting with the school about. Giles suffered from an abscessed tooth that caused swelling in his face. He had it drained in Seattle, and Oregon State didn't cover the bill.
His final game at Oregon State was a forgettable homecoming. He fouled out while playing just 11 minutes in a loss to Washington and the next week he was off the team but still at school. He kept coming to games and sitting behind his bench.
He didn't have anywhere to go. Not really. With one year of college eligibility remaining, he couldn't transfer to another Division I school. Not after he sat out 2006-07 switching from Kansas to Oregon State.
That left Giles short on options for continuing his college career. He could wait and see about getting back on Oregon State's roster under a new coach, or he could take a step back in competition and transfer to a Division II school.
"I don't want to transfer because it's like going down a level, and I don't want to do that," Giles said.
Instead, he chose to take a leap.
At Sports Lab
A tire sits in the corner of the workout room. A big tire.
The kind that goes on a bulldozer. Or a monster truck.
So is Giles going to have to lift that?
"Only if I'm in a real bad mood," Phil Claud jokes.
Claud, who runs Sports Lab Training Center, is a former professional cyclist who competed five years in Europe and has worked as a trainer at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He coached in both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. The wall of his gym is covered with cycling jerseys, autographed to include words of appreciation. The gym includes all the standard equipment. But this isn't a showroom for after-work warriors. This is a place for grooming athletes.
Claud has something different in mind for Giles, whom he compares to a blank canvas. A vast, 6-foot-11 blank canvas.
"He's a super-talented young man," Claud said. "But he's not very developed. That's not a bad problem to have."
Claud plans to change that with 90-minute morning workouts, four days a week. Giles will work with Kersey on basketball skills in the afternoons.
"My goal is to give Jerome the best athlete I can," Claud said.
What's next for Giles?
Potential has carried Giles this far. All the way across the country and back again, in fact.
From Rainier Beach High School to Miami, which signed him to a letter of intent and released him after firing the coach who recruited Giles.
Then to Kansas, the school where his father and mother played. A place where he started 18 games over his first two seasons only to run into trouble his third year on campus, dismissed from the team for a lapse in grades, among other things, and then reinstated only to be thrown entirely after he was cited for misdemeanor battery.
Then to Oregon State, where he enrolled on Jan. 8, 2007, and didn't play his first game until 11 months later. His career there consisted of 10 games. He scored in double figures only once. In five conference games, he racked up more than twice as many fouls (19) as field goals (9).
Those 10 games are the extent of his organized basketball the past two seasons, the rest of the turmoil that hides the talent.
"If he can get his off-the-court stuff in order, I can see him in the [NBA] for years," Mouton said. "I really can. And I'm not saying that just because I want him to do well. It's fact."
And now he's in Portland, hoping for a basketball future.
"It was for a reason," Giles said. "Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes the stuff happened. But I can't just dwell on the past. I've got to think about the future. This is the best step for me. And I feel like I'm just going to take it and run with it."
One NBA source doesn't foresee a team making the multiyear financial commitment required for a first-round pick. A second-round pick would be more likely if he plays well in the months leading up to the draft. He still has the size to be a factor and the athleticism to make it in the league, and he should get an opportunity to showcase himself at the predraft camp in Orlando, Fla.
For now, Giles is preparing for that opportunity to open eyes and drop some jaws. He's not in limbo; he's in Portland working out at a gym with a 425-pound tire in the corner and a 17-year NBA veteran watching over his shoulder as he prepares to attempt a cannonball into the deep end of the basketball pool.
"I don't feel scared," Giles said. "I just feel like I've learned a lot from all my bad experiences and I feel like I can take that and move on from it and get better from it."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 08:52 AM
Hundreds attend funeral for fallen Mich. player
UPDATE - 09:40 AM
Norway's Tarjei Boe wins men's biathlon at worlds
NEW - 08:46 AM
Tripoli ruled unsafe for international soccer
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.