Davis earns praise for low-key style

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2012 

  • When: 6:09 p.m. Saturday | Where: New Orleans | Records: UK 36-2; Louisville 30-9 | TV: CBS-27

For all his record-breaking accomplishments this season, it's what Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis hasn't done that's perhaps made him a player of distinction.

He hasn't wagged a scornful finger at an opponent after blocking a shot a la Dikembe Mutombo. He hasn't thumped his chest after a dunk. He hasn't taunted an opponent.

"It gives me hope," Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy said before his team faced Kentucky this season. "To me, it's refreshing in this day and age because it's not about look-at-me. He just lets his play do the talking."

The word "refreshing" gets mentioned often when the subject is Davis. Len Elmore, now a college basketball analyst for CBS and a presence around the basket in his playing days for Maryland, used it.

"It's refreshing and admirable," he said of Davis' low-key approach. "You rarely see an 18-, 19-year-old play that way. So many draw attention to themselves. He's all about team."

Before Kentucky's advancement to this weekend's Final Four, former UK All-American Jamal Mashburn noted how he liked Davis' demeanor.

Mashburn, who worked the Southeastern Conference Tournament as a radio analyst, dismissed the finger wag as a "Deion Sanders thing." He described it as a way a player could "separate himself" from the team.

"A look-at-me kind of thing," Mashburn said. "I didn't like that part of it."

Mashburn compared Davis and fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to two of his former UK teammates: John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus.

"They sacrifice things for the team," he said. "It's good to see that."

Another CBS analyst, Jim Spanarkel, the former Duke guard, suggested that players who call attention to themselves detract from the team.

"Any player on any level who starts to do that, the finger wagging or the showboating, it leads to distractions," he said. "I usually refer to it as hunting down the camera. And when they're more concerned with the camera or what people in the stands are thinking, I think you're distracted and your focus becomes diminished a bit. ...

"With Anthony Davis not doing it, I love it. I love the fact he just comes, he gives you the 40 minutes, and that's it."

Davis played this way before he came to Kentucky.

Cortez Hale, his coach at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, did not take credit.

"I wish it was something I told him," Hale said. "That's always been his nature. He's always let his game speak for itself."

Jevon Mamon, who coached Davis on the AAU circuit, said Davis did not seek the spotlight there, either.

"Sometimes we'd have to tell him, 'You have to demand the ball,'" Mamon said. "'You're the best player on the team. You need to act like it.'"

Davis' father, also named Anthony, advised his son not to draw attention to himself unnecessarily.

"That is the way my wife and I always explained it to him," the elder Davis said. "When you go on the court, that's your job. You go out there and represent yourself."

The player's father noted that self-interest should dictate an unassuming manner on the court. To wag a finger, thump a chest or verbally taunt is to invite retaliation.

"It can get the other team or the other person you're doing it to angry," the elder Davis said. "Where a player goes out and tries to get a cheap foul on you.

"We always told him, as quick as everything came to you, that's as quick as it can go if you're out there doing things you're not supposed to. So he got the picture. He just goes out and plays ball to the best of his ability."

Davis isn't always self-effacing. On occasion, he'll seem to show disdain by swatting a shot into the seats. But much more often, his rejection will remain in play. It's not unusual to see Davis retrieve the loose ball.

Elmore appreciated how Davis usually does not give in to the impulse to block a shot into the seats.

"All you've done is give the other team another chance to inbound the ball," he said of the emphatic, if relatively inconsequential, rejection.

Given the fanfare that accompanied Davis' arrival at Kentucky, not to mention the expectation of being the first player taken in this year's NBA Draft, he could have been forgiven for strutting his stuff.

Even with the celebrity of playing for Kentucky, he did not.

"With a kid who came in with a lot of fanfare, and play as well as he has in that fishbowl, I have a lot of respect for a kid I've never met," Kennedy said. "Just based on observing. He's very workmanlike."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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