Family Legacy Motivates Daniel Giddens
June 1, 2013 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
Daniel Giddens (Wheeler H.S./Mableton, Ga.) is one of many players participating in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team training camp with ties to an athletic family. His story, however, is unique.
Giddens is the great grandson of Charles Patterson, Sr., who played basketball for the University of Oregon in 1935-36 and was the first black player in the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast Conference (now the Pac-12 Conference). Patterson, Sr., was inducted into the Oregon Hall of Fame, played professionally in the American Basketball League and for the Harlem Globetrotters for a short time.
“I learned about (my great grandfather) for the first time I think in about sixth grade, when I really started getting into basketball,” Giddens remembered. “My mom told me, ‘You know, your great-grandfather, he was a great basketball player, too.’ My grandma came over and showed me some old photos of him in a Harlem Globetrotters uniform, and I was very in awe, like, ‘Wow.’
“At the time, you are just thinking, ‘Okay, that’s cool.’ Like Jackie Robinson, or something, it’s a cool part of history,” Giddens continued. “But growing up, more and more, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s actually in my family, and I can claim roots to that’, so it mean’s a lot.”
The basketball pedigree continues for Giddens. His grandfather, Charles Patterson, Jr., played for the Court Jesters, a entertainment basketball team, and his father, Harvey Giddens, played basketball at Clark Atlanta University, where he is in the Hall of Fame.
“My dad is in the Hall of Fame at Clark Atlanta University, and I think he is the third all-time leading scorer at his high school,” Giddens said. “And my uncle, he was a good ball player back in Birmingham, Alabama. So, my family was athletic, but they are more professionals now.”
You might think Giddens felt pressured by the greatness in his family’s past, but it is his family he credits for pushing him to be a more well-rounded person.
“My mother really sets the tone for me,” Giddens explained. “She’s like, ‘Okay, you play basketball. What’s next? What’s after basketball? What’s your plan B? I’m going to major in finance now, I wouldn’t get there without my mom and my dad. And then running for class president, my aunt actually showed me an article where Chris Paul was his class president his sophomore, junior and senior year, so I said, “If Chris Paul can do it, why can’t I?’ And I set a goal for myself.”
Giddens accomplished that goal and was elected Junior Class President for the
2013-14 school year, campaigning on a platform of moving prom to a new location, integrating the magnet program and regular students at Wheeler High School and improving graduation test scores.
In his father, Giddens said he has someone who has accomplished things he hopes to accomplish and someone who expects him to perform on and off the court.
“Actually, me and my dad, this USA Basketball (camp) is something we never really imagined,” said Giddens. “So, I think more and more, we are learning the process more and more. He played at the collegiate level, and I’m trying to get there. So he’s definitely knows the importance of how to get there education-wise and what I need to do in school.”
On the court, Giddens said USA Basketball has been a learning process that exposed his weaknesses and challenged him to grow. In addition to the current training camp, which will be used to select the 12-member roster that will represent the USA in the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, Giddens also took part in a Developmental National Team mini-camp this past October, just prior to the start of his sophomore season at Wheeler.
“Mini-camp set the tone for me, right where my mind really needs to be to get on this team,” Giddens said. “The competition level was far better than any competition level I had ever been on before, so it definitely really showed me where I needed to be and it also showed me where my skill-set was. I’m more of a defensive presence now, I have realized that more since this camp has started, so these camps have really been a blessing.”
After a sophomore year in 2012-13 that saw Giddens average 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game while helping his team to a 21-9 record, a Georgia Region 5-6A title and the Class 7A state semifinals, the 6’10” forward earned All-Georgia second team by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and was named his team’s Most Improved Player.
“I definitely credit that a lot to USA Basketball, because USA Basketball showed me where I needed to work on my game going into my season,” said Giddens. “USA Basketball also set the tone for my season, going back to Atlanta, people looked at you like, ‘Okay, he was on USA. He must be something.’ So, that definitely set the tone for me.”
An elite prospect with a prestigious lineage, Giddens has a mature perspective on the hardships that come with facing the best-of-the-best and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
“It’s definitely motivating because you have to be able to take criticism in life,” Giddens said. “Coming to USA Basketball they tell you what you do right, what you do wrong. What they tell me I do wrong, I take that, I work on it and I try to get better at it. That’s what makes you better and better as a player.
“Not only does USA help me basketball-wise, but my basketball IQ also picks up and my motor picks up.”
Playing, eating and sleeping at the U.S. Olympic Training Center during the Developmental National Team training camps, Giddens is aware of his surroundings and the incredible company he is keeping.
“The first time I got the letter from USA Basketball, ‘You’re invited,’ it was really a blessing. I’m still in awe that I’m here,” Giddens admitted. “I’m really just trying to utilize the most of the opportunity. Even if I make the team or not, I’m going to take this experience for a lifetime.”
In fact, just 12 of the 30 players at training camp will travel to Uruguay for the U16 championship June 11-15, and Giddens wants to be one of them.
“It would be a dream come true representing USA, representing your country, It’s just mind-blowing that you are allowed to on that pedestal. What it means to me is, I’m not playing for my state, I’m not playing for myself. I’m playing for my family and my country. Getting the opportunity to realize that, representing it would be amazing.”
His dreams aren’t limited to the 2013 U16 team, Giddens has Olympic dreams as well.
“My first time I saw the Olympics was ’04 in Athens, I think USA took bronze that year, and I told myself, ‘I got to get this one day. I want to win gold.’ I can definitely see myself on that podium.”
Shortly, Giddens will know whether he will travel to Uruguay, or whether he will head back to Atlanta to begin the summer basketball circuit. Either way, you can be sure he will have a plan – a plan for his basketball career and a plan for life after basketball.
Some of that, Giddens credits to 2000 Olympic gold medalist Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a Wheeler High School alumni who also won gold with USA Basketball at the 1994 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and helped the USA to a win in the 1995 Nike Hoop Summit.
“A dude at my high school named Shareef Abdur-Rahim, he went No. 3 in the Draft. He’s definitely one of my role models. He really started the trend at my high school for players to be something outside of basketball because he is now an assistant GM for the Sacramento Kings. So, he really is an example for me.”
And when basketball becomes overwhelming, Giddens has a plan for that, too.
“Definitely, when I’m in town, I’m chilling with my family, chilling with my friends. I need down time, and I need time in the gym getting shots up. I try to golf occasionally. I try to find as much down time as I can, but it’s hard nowadays.”
Nowadays, Giddens has no time for himself as practices have been twice a day since starting training camp on the evening of Thursday, May 30. As he battles for a roster spot, Giddens is not alone, and you get the impression that his support system is within him as much as they are behind him.
“My dad is here with me now,” Giddens sad. “I try to talk to my mom as much as I can, she’s back in Atlanta with my brother. If I’m blessed to make the team, he won’t be in Uruguay with me, but I know they would be there in spirit, and I would play for them. And my country.”