UK-Tennessee notes: Davis could break UK blocks record Saturday

Defensive instincts, anticipation have Davis on verge of blocks record

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 14, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis (23) blocked the shot of Auburn Tigers guard Varez Ward (1) as #2 Kentucky played Auburn on Wednesday January 11, 2012 in Auburn, AL. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

Being within six of a single-season school record might force Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis to think about the blocked-shot numbers he's posting.

"You lose focus (when you) get into all the statistics," he said Friday. "I just try not to lose focus, and keep focus on the court."

Davis, who goes into Saturday's game at Tennessee within reach of the school single-season record (83, shared by Andre Riddick and Melvin Turpin), acknowledged the surprise of nearing uncharted UK territory only halfway through the season.

"I never thought I'd break the records," he said. "I just go in and try to play every game."

UK Coach John Calipari noted how Davis shares a trait he's seen with other shot blockers, including his All-American at UMass, Marcus Camby.

"The best shot blockers I've seen are the ones that let people release the ball and then go get it," Calipari said. "And that's what he does."

Davis said shot blocking was more instinctual than a skill honed through workouts. "There's really no way you can really work on it," he said. "I think 100 percent is just instincts. It's all about timing. You never know when a guy is going to shoot, so you have to kind of time it and use your instincts to know when he's going to shoot it and go up and block it."

Sensing how his presence inhibits opponents ("I think I change a lot of people's mindsets"), Davis has done more than impose a no-fly zone around the basket. More than one opponent has mentioned how he can surprise by coming out of the lane to reject three-point attempts.

Davis noted how South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington kept his distance.

"The football player guy ... Ellington, he was telling me, 'I don't know why my teammates keep going in there; they know you're going to block it,'" Davis said. "That was funny. That was real funny. He was talking to me, like, 'Man, you're real long. You block everything. I never played against nobody like that.'

"That's why he wasn't coming in the hole. He was shooting all jumpers."

Auburn big man Rob Chubb had success posting up and scoring over Davis. Afterward Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said that a direct physical approach works better rather than let a shot blocker operate as a help defender.

"I'm not surprised on 'bigs' because that's their job," Davis said. "But when guards come in, I'm very surprised."

Only a few years ago, Davis was a guard. Calipari cited the growth spurt from about 6-foot-3 to 6-10 as a key factor.

"Guard instincts and guard reaction," the UK coach called it. "A quicker twitch."

Davis recalled being the "block-ee" rather than the blocker.

"It's crazy because when I was 6-2 or 6-3, I was getting my shot blocked," he said. "So to actually grow and actually be able to break the record for blocked shots, that's very amazing."

Stokes to play?

Heralded freshman big man Jarnell Stokes, who turned 18 last Saturday, became eligible this week but has not yet played.

"There's not a plan, but I know he wants to play," UT Coach Cuonzo Martin said after the Vols lost at Mississippi State on Thursday. "But I have to do what's best for him. I have to make sure he knows everything from a terminology standpoint.

"And, it's just about what he's ready for."

UK recruited Stokes, a 6-8, 250-pound (or 270, depending on who's talking) forward from Memphis.

"He's good," Calipari said. "... Nice bounce to him. Great skill level. He's competitive."

Stokes, whom Rivals.com rated No. 11 nationally in the class of 2012, averaged 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season.

While saying he did not know if Stokes would play, Calipari said, "I imagine if they need him, they'll go to him."

Beyond mere numbers

Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has failed to score double-digit points in the last three games. Prior to that, he'd scored 10 or more points in all but two games.

To which, Calipari shrugged.

"Every rough rebound, every loose ball, every tough defensive assignment, he gets," the UK coach said.

Hail, Alabama

Calipari is using Alabama's national championship football team as an example for the Cats to follow. He seemed especially impressed that a penalty late in the title-game victory over LSU angered Coach Nick Saban. Because it showed how Saban works for perfection.

"That's where we're trying to go," Calipari said. "We're not there yet. We break off plays. We do things we choose to do versus things we've been taught to do."

Inattention to such details must be corrected, Calipari said. "Now, teams are going to hang around (and) have a chance to beat us."

Tickets available

As of Friday afternoon, Saturday's game at Tennessee was not a sellout. But it was close.

About 1,000 tickets remained available at $25 each. The seats were in the upper levels behind each baseline. Tickets could be ordered at UTtix.com

Etc.

Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN.

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