UK Men's Basketball

Bow to the 'Brow: Anthony Davis is 2012 Kentucky Sportsman of the Year

Kentucky's Anthony Davis (23), Eloy Vargas (30) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) celebrated after defeating Kansas in the NCAA championship game on April 2, 2012, in New Orleans.
Kentucky's Anthony Davis (23), Eloy Vargas (30) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) celebrated after defeating Kansas in the NCAA championship game on April 2, 2012, in New Orleans. Herald-Leader

He spent only one school year in Kentucky, yet Anthony Davis produced achievements in 2011-12 that few can match over a lifetime.

The 6-foot-10 Chicago product led the Kentucky Wildcats to an undefeated Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and UK's first NCAA men's basketball national title since 1998.

Davis swept every major college basketball national player of the year honor, including the Wooden, Rupp and Naismith awards. The shot-blocking center earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player, was a consensus first-team All-America choice and was named the SEC Male Athlete of the Year.

Topping off a year for the ages, Davis was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets and earned a gold medal in the London Olympics as a member of the USA men's basketball squad.

He even made having a unibrow cool.

For all those reasons, sports media members from around the commonwealth have elected Anthony Davis the 2012 Lexington Herald-Leader Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.

"Anthony Davis had the greatest freshman season in the history of college basketball, and arguably one of the best single seasons for any player since they cut the bottom out of the peach baskets," wrote Dick Gabriel of Lexington's WLAP radio.

Added Larry Glover of Lexington's WVLK radio: "Davis simply had a year that no college player can ever top. Every player of the year award, national champion and gold-medal winner. How can anybody do better than that?"

In becoming the 32nd Sportsman of the Year, Davis was a commanding victor. Out of a record 124 votes cast, Davis received 72 first-place and 21 second-place votes (voters list a top 10 with a declining number of points awarded for each place).

John Calipari, who coached Kentucky to a 38-2 record and the 2012 NCAA title, finished second for the second straight year.

"Since (Calipari's) arrival in Kentucky, all he has managed to do is get to (three) Elite Eights, two Final Fours, win a national championship, raise money for earthquake, hurricane and tornado victims, coach another country's national team (the Dominican Republic) and recruit some of the greatest basketball talent anywhere," wrote Mike Cameron of Lexington's WLXG radio.

Rounding out the top five were three University of Louisville sports figures — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year; Sugar Bowl-winning football coach Charlie Strong; and Athletics Director Tom Jurich, who helped Louisville earn an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

For the first time in the history of the award, the top 10 finishers all had ties to either UK or U of L.

Since the Sportsman of the Year began in 1981, Calipari is the first coach to lead a Kentucky team to the NCAA men's hoops championship and not win the award. Denny Crum (1986), Rick Pitino (1996) and Tubby Smith (1998) all were chosen for the Sportsman honor after winning national titles.

"During normal years, a coach that guides the University of Kentucky to a national championship would be an easy pick," wrote Lex Dixon of The Times-Tribune in Corbin, "but not this year."

Added Lachlan McLean of Louisville's WHAS radio: "I went with Davis over Cal for the top spot because many coaches have won (national) titles but few players in history have had the kind of year Davis did. The cumulative achievements and superlatives were unreal."

Davis blocked more shots (186) in a season than any freshman in the history of men's college basketball. He led the Southeastern Conference with 20 double-doubles, and was UK's leading scorer (14.2), rebounder (10.4) and field-goal shooter (62.3 percent).

The summer months were also a slam dunk for Davis. New Orleans picked him first overall in the NBA Draft. After Blake Griffin was forced off the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team by injury, Davis was chosen to replace him. The American team went on to win the gold medal.

"Never again will we see someone win a Final Four MVP, Wooden Award, Olympic gold medal and be taken first in the NBA Draft — all in one year," wrote Pat Doney of Louisville's WDRB-TV. "Never."

Added Tom Leach of the UK radio network: "Anthony Davis had arguably the single greatest year for any individual in the history of Kentucky basketball — and that's saying something. In a year of very strong candidates for this award, Davis, as he often does, stands above the crowd."

Anthony Davis is the 2012 Lexington Herald-Leader Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.