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21 Jack Givens

Jack Givens
Hometown (Last School)
Lexington, KY (Bryan Station)
1974-75, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78
September 21, 1956

Jack “Goose” Givens has firmly established himself in Wildcat lore as one of the truly best finesse players ever to wear the Blue and White. He led to the 1978 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship and was named that year's Final Four Most Outstanding Player due in most part to his 41-point performance in Kentucky's 94–88 victory over Duke in the championship game.

Jackie Lamont Givens was born September 21, 1956, in Lexington, Kentucky to Betty Smith Givens. His basketball career almost ended as soon as it began.  At the sensitive age of 13, Givens suffered a broken nose while playing basketball in junior high.  “My mother wanted me to quit the team, and I came pretty close to doing it,” Givens recalled. “But coach Campbell encouraged me to come back out. He convinced me everything would be all right and got my courage up.”  He convinced his sister Regina to forge a permission slip so he could try out for the team.  And, in a slice of the world where children are expected to dribble little basketballs around their playpens, Givens loved another game – baseball. “My brothers would play basketball in the parks, but I played baseball,” said Jack. “It was mostly pickup games, at Douglass Park and Bluegrass Park, then after a while I played two years in the Thoroughbred League. I was a pitcher and first baseman. I didn't play much basketball until the eighth grade, when I joined a Community Center league that played Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Charles Young Center.  The summer after ninth grade, I grew all the way to 6-3.  I went to Henry Clay, but we moved and I transferred to Bryan Station.  There was only a week left in tryouts there, but coach (Bobby) Barlow invited me to keep trying out after practice started.”  If the rest is not exactly history, it is rapidly assuming the romantic tone of a sports book for boys. Givens became a high school All-America at Bryan Station.  Givens' favorite moment with the team was when they beat James Lee and Henry Clay. In that game, Givens scored 45 points and grabbed over 20 rebounds.  

As a sophomore in high school, he averaged 18 points per game and was one of only two non-seniors on the 12-man All-State Tournament team.  Givens earned Kentucky Mr. Basketball and Parade  honors after his senior year at Lexington's Bryan Station High School in 1974.  He led Bryan Station to a 76-17 record during a career in which he scored 1,777 points for an 18.7 average.  He played forward for two years and center his senior year when he averaged 25 ppg and 17 rebounds.  He set the rebounding record in the 1974 State Tournament when he snared 24 against Owensboro in the first round (he also scored 35 points in that game).  Givens headed up the 1974 All-State Tournament team, after 66 points in two games, and was the only player on the 12-team squad to be named on every ballot.  He was named Kentucky's Mr. Basketball.  One sportswriter described “Givens is silk.  Givens is slender and smooth, an extraordinary leaper and runner. He gets his points, about 25 a game, in all sorts of ways, mostly with magic in close.”  He drew comparisons to  and Wes Unseld.  Jock Sutherland, legendary Lafayette coach, said, “You could take Givens and put him with the Lennon Sisters and they'd win the State Tournament.”

The name “Goose” came from former Harlem Globetrotter Reece “Goose” Tatum, who played for the Globetrotters from 1941-54.  “They (Bryan Station teammates) said I resembled him and his style of play,” Givens said. “It's one of those things that I didn't like when it first started. That kind of made them call me “Goose” even more. It just kind of stuck and it's been with me since that time.”

Givens signed a letter of intent to play for Kentucky on April 17, 1984.  He wanted to stay home and give his family an opportunity to see him play in person. By his junior year, Givens knew where he wanted to go.  “The university recruited me hard,” Givens said. “All of the fans of Kentucky would show up at my games. They would cheer and would say ‘You need to come to Kentucky, don't go anywhere else.' It's hard to turn that down when you see every game is full of people who have University of Kentucky gear on and they're screaming for you because they want you to go there.”

As a freshman at Kentucky, Givens played in all 31 games, starting five.  Starting in only his third game of the season as a freshman on February 17, 1975, he poured in a season-high 26 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Cats in a win over Ole Miss.  Just before the 1975 NCAA Tournament semi-final game against Syracuse, Givens learned that his mother's fellow employees at Lexington's Eastern State Hospital had collected the money necessary to send Betty Givens to San Diego.  What she saw was a 24-point, 11 rebound performance by substitute forward Givens and a Kentucky victory over Syracuse which put the Wildcats into the national championship game against UCLA.  “Givens had a great night,” Kentucky Coach Joe Hall said.  “He gave us a fine effort, helped us inside with his rebounding, and kept hitting that little dish-rag jumper of his.  He's done it so many times (coming off the bench) that you kind of take him for granted.”  The Wildcats finished as national runners-up, falling 92–85 to UCLA in the 1975 Final Four championship game.  Givens averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds a game for his freshman campaign.  

Givens came into his own during his sophomore season after Rick Robey fell to injury.  Givens made the first basket of the game against LSU on March 1, 1976, en route to a season-high 33 points as Kentucky routed the Tigers 85-70 in an  tilt.  On March 8, 1976, trailed by seven points with 1:23 left in regulation in the last game UK played at Memorial Coliseum.  Givens sank an 8-footer with eight second left  that sent the game into overtime: “I just said a little prayer on the bench and tried to keep my head together.”  Givens scored 26 points. and the Cats won 94-93.  In the last five games of the season, heading into the final regular season game, Givens hit 55 of 86 shots from the floor, a sizzling 64 percent. He averaged 26.8 points and nine rebounds during that span.  At the end of his sophomore year, he had scored 602 points, ranking him second as UK's all-time sophomore scorer behind Cotton Nash. That put his per-game average right at 20 per game.  At the time, that placed him as only the ninth player in school history to average 20 or better in a season.  He was selected to the All- team by SEC coaches and second-team All-SEC by the AP.  Hampered by foul trouble, Givens managed only 6 points as Kentucky won the NIT championship, its second (the first was 1946), over UNC-Charlotte, 71-67, to end the season.  He was named to the NIT All-Tournament team with a 16.3 scoring average over 4 games. 

Prior to the start of his junior season, Coach Joe B. Hall said of Goose, “Jack is smooth as silk, but through hard work, has increased his strength, quickness and shooting range. He is Kentucky's “Top Gun” with his feather touch shooting.”  Givens was “Mr. Steady” for Kentucky basketball.  He got the job done without a lot of flamboyance and sticking to straight basketball.  He didn't even get his first dunk shot until February 7, 1977, against  State.  He stuck to fundamentals.  On the day Kentucky dedicated it's new home court, a 23,000-seat arena named for the legendary Adolph Rupp, Givens led a very balanced scoring attack (James Lee 14, Rick Robey 13, Dwayne Casey 13) with 15 points to beat previously undefeated Kansas, 90-63.  On New Year's Eve 1976 in Freedom Hall, Kentucky dismantled second-ranked Notre Dame 102-78 behind a season-high 30-points from Givens.  On January 29, 1977, Kentucky was getting beat by third-ranked Alabama on Alabama's home court.  Givens had scored only five points going into halftime.  In the locker room at the half, Coach Hall spoke to Givens:  “Coach Hall gave me a good chewing out.” Givens said. “He said I wasn't playing with any guts, wasn't playing good enough defense. I just wasn't with it. Not enough pep and spirit. And he was right. I knew I had to play better the second half, and, thank the Lord, I did.”  He scored 18 points in the second half to lead Kentucky past the Crimson Tide, 87-85.  Givens scored 26 points, 22 in the second half, in a 79-72 loss to North Carolina in the 1977 NCAA Mideast Regional finals to end the season.  UK ended up with five more field goals than the Tarheels in that loss, but that wasn't enough to overcome 33-for-36 free-throw shooting by Carolina.  As a junior, he scored 20 or more points in 15 games.  He ended the season with an 18.9 scoring average to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game.  Givens was named to the All- first team by the AP, UPI, and by SEC coaches.  He was also named to the 1977 NCAA Mideast Region All-Tournament team and to the NABC's 4th  team.  Givens was named the team's most valuable player at season's end.

Givens saved his best for his last season at Kentucky.  He averaged 18.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.  Givens and Kentucky returned to the Final Four at the Checkerdome in St. Louis, Missouri. After leading Kentucky to a semifinal victory over Arkansas with 23 points, he put on one of the finest individual performances in NCAA championship history by scoring a career-high 41 points and making 18 of 27 field goal attempts against Duke to help Kentucky clinch their fifth NCAA Championship.  He nearly broke Bill Walton's title game record of 44. “I watched that game (when UCLA beat Memphis State),” Givens said. “I never thought the day would come when I might come close to a Bill Walton.”  In the first half alone, Givens scored 23 points, including 18 of Kentucky's last 20.  Givens added, “I took one shot in the second half and it hit the side of the backboard and went in.  That's the kind of night I was having.”  Givens found the open spots in the Duke zone and his teammates got him the ball.  “I was just trying to contribute,” said Givens. “The shots were falling in, so I kept taking them. I guess it was just my night. That's the thing about this team. With every game, it's somebody different.” Givens left the game to a rousing ovation with 28 seconds to go. Kentucky was leading 92-84 at the time, but Hall wasn't convinced the game was secure. Five seconds later, Givens returned, along with his first-string teammates, and ran out the clock, capped by a James Lee slam dunk with two seconds to go.  Givens, wearing the cords from one of the baskets around his neck, was mobbed by newsmen following his dramatic performance, his best game in four seasons.  His mother Betty, brother Anthony, 23, and sister Barbara, worked their way through the crowd to offer congratulations.  “What are you all going to give me?',' a grinning Givens asked while embracing his mother in the flood of TV camera lights.  “Honey, you can have anything you want,” Mrs. Givens replied.

Givens lettered four times in varsity basketball from 1974–75 to 1977–78. In that span, he scored 2,038 points in 123 games (16.6 ppg), ranking third on the school's all-time scoring list. He was named first-team all-Southeastern Conference three times from 1976 to 1978 and was a consensus second-team  in 1978. Kentucky retired Givens' #21 jersey and a banner in his honor hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena.

  • Averaged 18.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists during the 1978 championship season
  • Scored 41 points in the championship game, three short of the title game record, on 18-of-27 shooting
  • Tabbed the 1978 Helms Foundation National Player of the Year
  • Named the 1978 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after guiding the Wildcats to the title
  • Also picked as the NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player during that run
  • Named an  by various publications in three different seasons (1976-78)
  • Made the NCAA Consensus All-America Second Team in 1978 with first-team nods from the NABC, the John R. Wooden Award and Converse Yearbook
  • Three-time All- member
  • Became just the second player in school history to score more than 2,000 points (2,038)
  • Averaged 16.6 points in his career, including a career-best 20.1 during his sophomore season
  • Led UK to  championships in 1975, 1977 and 1978
  • School record holder for most field goals made (843) and most field goals attempted (1,683) 

Following his collegiate career, the Atlanta Hawks drafted Givens with the 16th overall pick in the 1978 draft. He played two years for the Hawks, scoring 1,040 points in 156 games (6.7 ppg).  He also played overseas in Japan.  His professional playing days spanned 7 years total.

After his playing career, Givens was an NBA television color analyst for various networks and teams, most notably with the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and the Orlando Magic for both the Sun Sports and FS Florida cable stations from the team's inception in 1989 to 2004.

In 2003, Givens was selected by fans, via Internet and paper ballots, as a member of Kentucky's Fantasy Five.  Joining him were Dan Issel, Kyle Macy, Jamal Mashburn, and Tony Delk. 

Givens was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

In November 2020, Givens joined the UK Sports Network as co-host of the Don Franklin Auto Countdown to Tipoff pregame radio show alongside Dave Baker.  Givens would also provide analysis on television for the UK Sports Network as a featured guest on BBN Gameday and BBN Tonight.

He and his wife Linda have two children, a son, Jeremy, and a daughter, Jaimie.

Per Game

1974-75 31   19.3 4.1 8.2 .494 1.3 1.7 .741 4.9 0.9     1.3 1.8 9.4
1975-76 30   35.6 8.1 16.5 .492 3.9 4.7 .829 7.2 2.7       2.7 20.1
1976-77 30   34.4 7.9 15.3 .514 3.1 3.8 .832 6.9 2.7     1.8 2.1 18.9
1977-78 32 32 32.1 7.4 13.4 .553 3.2 4.2 .761 6.8 2.5     1.6 3.0 18.1
Career 123 32 30.3 6.9 13.3 .515 2.9 3.6 .798 6.4 2.2       2.4 16.6


1974-75 31   598 126 255 .494 40 54 .741 152 27     39 55 292
1975-76 30   1068 243 494 .492 116 140 .829 216 81       80 602
1976-77 30   1032 236 459 .514 94 113 .832 208 82     53 64 566
1977-78 32 32 1028 238 430 .553 102 134 .761 217 80     52 95 578
Career 123 32 3726 843 1638 .515 352 441 .798 793 270     144 294 2038


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