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Saturday, January 3, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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High School Sports

Rainier Beach center C.J. Giles a quiet giant

Seattle Times staff reporter

For so many years, C.J. Giles kept everything inside.

When he was young, and the constant moving made him long for a permanent home, there was no one to confide in. When he first enrolled at Rainier Beach, uncertain of what a new school and a new team would bring, he simply left his feelings unacknowledged. And even on the basketball court, where his lean, 6-foot-11 frame towered over opponents, Giles preferred to let his play do most of the talking.

But this quiet giant ended up in the spotlight after all.

As he embarks on what should be a successful senior season on the Beach basketball team, Giles has finally learned that letting people in can make all the difference.

He talks candidly about basketball, family and life. His voice does not waver. He does not look down or swallow his words like he once did.

"As a captain, I've got to be more vocal because I really don't talk a lot," he said one day after practice. "I feel more confident. I think sometimes other people call me soft because they're intimidated by me and want to get in my head. But I'm not, and I show that on the court."

On the court, Giles is a rarity — a center who can run the floor and hit jumpers with the confidence of a guard. Under the basket, he is an imposing presence for even the most experienced post players. He is scoring 16.8 points per game this season and the nationally ranked Vikings (8-2 overall, 6-0 Metro) will rely heavily on him as they try to become the first Class 4A or 3A boys team in state history to win a third straight basketball title.

But it has been a long road of uncertainty and bottled-up feelings to get to this point.

Giles did not play organized basketball until ninth grade, despite standing 6-4 at the time. His father, Chester, played for Kansas but never pressured his kids into trying the sport.

"I let my kids follow their own lead," he said. "C.J. just wasn't interested in basketball until ninth grade."

C.J., who was named after his father (his initials stand for Chester Jarel), says his lack of interest had a lot to do with uncertainty at home. Before sixth grade, Giles said he moved nearly every year, from mom to grandma to dad, and never knew if his next stop would be permanent.

He calls the early years with his mother, Gail Giles, "rough" and does not have much of a relationship with her now. She pops up at games and practices every now and then, but they do not talk regularly. Like Chester Sr., Gail also played basketball for the Jayhawks.

"My childhood, I basically kept everything inside," Giles said. "My sisters were older than me so I couldn't talk to them and my dad was too busy working. I could only talk to my little brother."

He credits Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea and athletic director Dan Jurdy with providing the family-like setting that allowed him to open up. But adjusting to the fast tempo and high expectations of Beach basketball took a bit of time.

"When I first got here I was real intimidated and I was all bony," Giles said. "I was like, 'Man, am I really ready to do this? Can I handle this?' "

Bethea thought so.

He often says Giles is part of the legacy of talented players produced by the school in Seattle's Rainier Valley.

"The twins (Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart) handed him the torch," he said, "and now he'll pass it on to the guys coming after him."

One of those recipients is starting point guard Terrence Williams, a junior who considers himself a brother to Giles.

"He was tall and he was quiet," Williams recalls of his first impression of his teammate. "I think he got more comfortable when he got around us. He's starting to be more consistent. He's starting to realize that he's the tallest guy in Metro."

Giles acknowledges his potential to do more than he has in the past and has no doubt that his team will be successful this season.

"We're going to be the first (3A or 4A) team in the state of Washington to win the championship three times," he said, cracking a smile.

Next season Giles will attend the University of Miami on a basketball scholarship. Just as exciting as playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference is the prospect of being joined by his father and younger brother, Malcolm, who plan to move with him before the start of the school year.

Through those years of unspoken emotions, Malcolm, a sophomore at Federal Way's Todd Beamer High School, was the only person his brother really talked to.

"I try to be everything to him," Giles said.

He does not want Malcolm to ever feel as alone as he once did, to hold things inside. So he sees the move to Miami as a new beginning.

"I feel like it'll be a new life for us," Giles said. "I think it's a new start."

Jeannine Befidi: 206-464-8294 or jbefidi@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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