Daniel Giddens estimates it was roughly seven minutes before tip-off Monday night when he found out he would be starting at center for Ohio State against Penn State. When Giddens was asked Wednesday if he preferred it that way, the Buckeyes’ freshman big man paused for a brief moment to collect his thoughts, then delivered a response.
“I didn’t have a choice, I had to be ready to go,” he said. “Coach [Thad] Matta ain't playing like that.”
The room of reporters inside Value City Arena let out a collective laugh.
It wouldn’t be the last time.
Giddens turned Wednesday’s media session which was intended to preview Ohio State’s upcoming game against Illinois into somewhat of a comedy hour. He interrupted Keita Bates-Diop speaking on returning to play in Champaign — Bates-Diop is from a town roughly 30 minutes outside Champaign. “Shout out to Normal, Illinois,” Giddens said.
He commented on Bates-Diop’s new haircut: “My man got the one all the way around with the sides tapered on the back. That’s a money-making haircut. That’s real marketable, Keita, I’m proud of you.”
He said he already had four cups of coffee on the day — it wasn’t even 3 o’clock yet. He referred to himself as “looking like the flying nun” at times this season when trying to block shots. Giddens even asked a reporter for her name so he could tell his mother she said hello.
It was an incredibly entertaining 15 minutes.
“It took me a second to lighten up to y’all because I didn’t trust the media at first,” Giddens said. “I was like, ‘Everything I say they can spin!’ But I like y’all; y’all cool.”
It was a little surprising, too, because when Giddens is on the floor, he’s anything but laid back. He plays with a certain intensity and aggressiveness Ohio State fans haven’t seen much of from the team’s big men over recent seasons.
After a dunk through a foul against the Nittany Lions, Giddens let out a giant scream and flexed toward the crowd. He was hit with a technical foul earlier this season after blocking a shot off the backboard and celebrating it a little bit too much.
There’s a passion and energy there that hasn’t been the last few years.
“He’s obviously a very high energy type of guy,” Matta said. “You could practice at six in the morning or 12 midnight and guys like Daniel and Dave [Lighty] are ready to go.”
Transforming from a laid-back joke teller to a fiery, intense basketball player by seemingly flipping a switch seems like it could be a difficult task. It’s not that way for Giddens, though. He thinks it’s quite easy.
The reason for that?
“I’m obsessed with winning and I don’t take losing lightly,” he said. “So, I will do anything in my power, anything it takes to get a win. Period.”
A prime example of Giddens not taking kindly to losing came after Ohio State’s 35-point loss to Maryland on Jan. 16. Following that blowout, Giddens took to his personal Twitter account to issue a public apology for the team’s poor performance in its last two road games.
“I don’t take embarrassment lightly,” he said of that tweet Wednesday. “When you’re on ESPN and you’re the first game of the day and you’re getting embarrassed, I didn’t like that at all. Basically, I put a public apology out on behalf of this team that said this won’t happen again.
“I really can’t put that in words, really. When I’m on the bench in foul trouble and I see my team out there with the scoring going up and up, I get pissed because I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t help my team right now.’”
On the floor, Giddens is already an elite shot blocker. He ranks third in the Big Ten in both blocked shots (39) and blocks per game (2.1). His offensive game is a bit of a work in progress, but there’s no denying Giddens’ natural athleticism and how hard he plays the game. For the year, the freshman hailing from Mableton, Georgia is averaging 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds to go along with the blocked shots.
And while it's unclear right now whether or not Giddens will remain the man starting in the middle for Ohio State — Matta wouldn't commit to a starting group against the Illini — but all signs certainly point in that direction.
What is certain, though, is Giddens has quite the dynamic personality and it's one that Ohio State fans will grow to love as his career progresses.
Almost as much, perhaps, as his high motor on the floor.
“I think with this team the dynamics lends itself for guys to come out of their shell,” Matta said. “We’ve sort of begged guys to step to the forefront and take ownership and when things go well everybody runs to the front. When things don’t go well they run and hide and they don’t want to face the facts, but Daniel has been consistent in his effort and consistent in what he has given this basketball team.”