John Clay: Anthony Davis a scene-stealer despite himself

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 6, 2012 

UK's Anthony Davis made the "3 goggle" after making a 3-pointer as the the University of Kentucky played the University of Florida in the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fl., Sunday, March 04, 2012. This is second half men's college basketball action. UK won 74-59. Charles Bertram | Staff

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In Gainesville on Sunday, once Kentucky had finished off its perfect SEC regular season, Anthony Davis, sporting a Chicago Cubs toboggan hat, was in a hallway of the O'Dome talking to the media.

Someone asked the 6-foot-10 freshman center about his making a three-pointer for the second straight game and about his perfect lead pass on a fast break.

Had he possessed those parts of his game all along, or were they new.

Davis said that he had them all along.

Then why didn't you show them?

"I didn't need to," he said.

In fact, said it as simply as that. He didn't say it in a boastful way. He didn't say it in a regretful way. He didn't say it to make any particular point, other than this: he has done whatever his team needed him to do.

On Tuesday, the rewards for such a distinct combination of talent and attitude began to flow in to the Craft Center.

First, the Sporting News announced it had chosen Davis as its National Player of the Year. Then later in the day, the SEC announced that the Chicago native had been chosen as its SEC Player of the Year.

Unfortunately, Davis was not there to comment on his individual bounty. He was back home on the sad occasion of a death in the family.

But we have been around him long enough to know what he most likely would have said, and not said.

He would have given thanks. He would have deflected attention to his teammates. He would have emitted a perhaps subtle, but no doubt discernible, feeling of pride.

Here is our reaction: If Anthony Davis is this good as a freshman, how extraordinarily good could he be down the road?

"When he made the right hook," said John Calipari on Tuesday, acting out the shot Davis made against the Gators, but with a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye, "and then we made the right hook ... I mean I had to go back to the TV copy because the guy on TV (Steve Kerr) said, 'Oh, my!' "

Kentucky fans have said, "Oh, my!" a lot this year, whether it be after a blocked shot by Davis, or a lob dunk by Davis, or, of late, a perimeter jumper by Davis.

Yet it never appears that Davis says that about himself, not on the floor. He doesn't pose or preen. He produces.

"He's very mature," said Florida Coach Billy Donovan on Sunday. "And that's rare."

"He's just getting better and better and better," said Calipari on Tuesday. "He doesn't say anything, doesn't shoot a whole lot of balls."

That has been Calipari's stump speech in favor of Davis for the big hardware — the Wooden Award, for example, which will be awarded after the Final Four.

Calipari's current line has been that Davis will end up taking 200 fewer shots than other contenders, most notably Kansas' outstanding forward Thomas Robinson.

In fact, Kansas Coach Bill Self argued on Robinson's behalf that the Jayhawk has had to carry more of the load, that his offense is predicated more on working the ball to the post than is Calipari's attack.

"Could you imagine if we went at Davis every possession?" said the coach Tuesday. "Could you imagine if he shot 22 times a game? ... Could you imagine if he played that way, how good he would be?

"Can you imagine the shots he would take, the threes he would have taken well before? The behind-the-back dribbles that you would have seen out of a kid 6-foot-11? You'll see it. You're just probably not going to see it (here)."

That's OK with Davis. He's not a scene-stealer. Make no mistake, he is determined. He is fearless. But he is also unselfish.

Donovan said Monday that the Kentucky players "just seemed consumed with winning, that's it. ... That's very impressive."

That's your Player of the Year.

John Clay: 859-231-3226. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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