There has never been a doubt about the skill of UConn junior forward Niels Giffey.
The import from Germany has at times showcased all the skills that made the scouting staff to reach into Europe to grab him. Giffey has good size at 6-foot-7, good ball skills with a good jump shot, and an ability to drive to the basket and good passing skills. He has the ability to guard most positions and anyone who has seen the two alley-oop dunks thrown to him by teammate Shabazz Napier would never question his athleticism.
Giffey is the total package in many ways except for one. Production.
Giffey has had eye-popping games. There was that 14 point performance against Kentucky in the finals of the Maui Classic as a freshman. There was the 15 points against Stony Brook earlier this year.
Those were rare occurrences. For the most part Giffey would log minutes with little production as points and shot attempts didn't line up with the minutes.
Something has changed for Giffey in the last couple of weeks however. The German is no longer logging minutes with limited impact, rather, he's doing the opposite by making the most of his time.
Giffey began his most consistent stretch in a UConn uniform with nine points and 10 rebounds against St. John's and has rattled off a string of impact games. Giffey has played over 20 minutes a night since then and has scored 6, 9, 11, 5 and 10 points becoming a valuable player off the bench.
Giffey, who played 24 minutes in the national title game as a freshman against Butler, finally is finding his role as a blend in player. He's coming off a 10 point, three rebound and good defensive game against DePaul in 20 minutes.
The Huskies play host to No. 7 Georgetown on Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion and they are going to need Giffey's best against the league leading Hoyas.
"It's having more confidence in my game and being aggressive," Giffey said of his recent play. "I am a junior now, I have to be more aggressive. It is my time now. I always have the ability to score, once in a while that popped up, but I am trying to stay more consistent right now. Not forcing shots, but, you know, actually working for my shot a little more."
Giffey's play is invaluable to the thin Huskies.
UConn lost Giffey's teammate and co-patriot in 7-foot center Enosch Wolf to suspension after an arrest for an alleged domestic dispute. That has forced Giffey even more into the frontcourt as he at times has had to play center and power forward for the Huskies. He has done it with no complaints and held his own. He's getting rebounds, playing defense and providing another shooting threat on the floor. For the season he is averaging 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in Big East play.
"He's come a long way and is relaxing," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said of Giffey. "He's understanding what he can do, getting offensive rebounds and being the glue guy. "It's just getting in and seeing the ball and going in and understanding his role.
"I put a lot on his table, he plays every position but point guard. He's understanding is role to find space to play the 5, 4 or the 3."
With four games left in the season the Huskies need for Giffey to finish strong. He is going to be relied upon on Wednesday against Georgetown as he and DeAndre Daniels are the best defensive matchups against Big East Player of the Year favorite Otto Porter. Porter is a 6-foot-8 scoring small forward who can both shoot it from deep and also take it off the dribble. Daniels is going to get the start on Porter, but there will come a point that Ollie going to have to turn to his junior for some minutes. Porter erupted for 33 points on Saturday against Syracuse as the Hoyas sit alone in first place in conference at 22-4, 11-3 Big East).
"I think (Porter) has the whole game," Giffey said. "He can post you up, go off the dribble and pull up and shoot the 3. He has a good handle and is the all-around package. You can't let him settle for something. You got to take everything away."
If UConn is going to do that, Giffey is going to have to be a big part of it.