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Wildcat finds mentor in former NBA player

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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Tanner Giddings shows his school spirit in Acker Gym on Wednesday morning. Photo credit: Kiana Alvarez

When Chico State played at Sonoma State last season, senior center Tanner Giddings had the opportunity to play in front of a special fan and former NBA player.

When Giddings made a mistake during the game, he looked to the sideline to see his mentor, former NBA player Mike Farmer, laughing, knowing exactly what Giddings had done wrong.

Giddings has developed a unique relationship that goes beyond coaching with Farmer.

“I have four kids, nine grandkids and two great grandchildren, and I would put [Giddings] in that mix,” Farmer said. “We will probably stay friends as long as I’m around.”

Farmer and Giddings started working together during his junior year at Windsor High School when Giddings’ assistant coach asked Farmer, his golfing buddy, if he would work with Giddings.

“I was a little nervous the first time I met him,” Giddings said, “but our relationship is just really special.”

The duo worked together almost every day when Giddings attended Windsor High School. A normal workout for them included shooting free throws to warm up, then gradually moving toward jump shots. To finish, they improved dribbling skills to help the versatility of Giddings’ game.

“From the end of his sophomore year, I would say it’s probably about a 90 percent improvement,” Farmer said. “He was just a big, gangling player. Now, he has a jump shot and three-point shot, and that’s because of the thousands of shots we’ve taken.”

Originally from Santa Rosa, Giddings completed his first season as a Wildcat last winter after transferring from Fresno State, where he had played basketball for two years.

“[Tanner] is a great guy,” said Greg Clink, Chico State head coach. “He is the epitome of the type of person we want in our program.”

He averaged almost 24 minutes per game for the ‘Cats, contributing 7.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and nearly 50 percent of the shots made last season.

Farmer and Giddings continue to work together whenever he’s home because of their strong relationship, Giddings said.

“Every day he’ll have a little story to tell me,” Giddings said, “like how he used to play with Bill Russell and all the Hall of Fame players back in the day.”

Farmer was the third overall pick in the 1958 draft from the University of San Francisco where he won a National Championship in 1956. Alongside NBA Hall of Fame players Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, Farmer also helped lead San Francisco to a 60-game winning streak.

Farmer now enjoys working with individual players, and when the idea to help Giddings came about, he looked at it as a great way to give back.

“I told him, ‘Never be afraid of making a mistake because that’s how you improve. Just believe in yourself and go out there and try,'” Farmer said. “I think he is going to have a tremendous year.”

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.

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Wildcat finds mentor in former NBA player