A look inside Anthony Davis’ pursuit of awards



Anthony Davis’ quest in obtaining the “mythical” college basketball grand slam (NBA 1st Pick, National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year) hasn’t only been on the minds of fans in the Bluegrass since his offensive prowess improved.

“It would be great to get that award,” Davis said about the player of the year after his dominating performance on Saturday against Vanderbilt.

According to many experts, including ESPN’s Chad Ford, it would take a major injury to remove Davis from atop the draft board.

When a player creates as much havoc as Davis has for the opposition on defense, a defensive player of the year award should be getting engraved with his name as you’re reading this.

With the pace that the “diaper dandy” has been swatting shots, a staggering 4.8 to be exact, Davis only supports his case for the award.

Many have compared his ability to affect opponents to that of Shaquille O’Neal’s performances in the early 90s at LSU.

Based on what I’ve seen, that is probably an accurate assessment.

If one would like to go back further, NBA great David Robinson is the only player to have outmatched the pace that Davis is on for blocks.

Not saying that he will be as good, but Robinson did have the Spider-Man persona to match his game in the mid-80s.

One difference to be considered is that Robinson played for Navy against a much less skilled group of opponents.

And unless Duke’s freshman guard Austin Rivers blows up entering the tourney and can carry the Blue Devils to a title, then Davis can sit back, rest easy and, in the words of Kanye West and Jay-Z say, “Who Gon Stop Me.”

The only thing not quite clear yet for the Cats’ freakish athlete is whether or not he can become UK’s first-ever Naismith National Player of the Year.

As the season has progressed, so has Davis as a player. For much of the season, fans and UK head coach John Calipari saw a player who was merely blocking shots, rebounding and scoring without taking his hands off the rim.

Since then, Davis displayed a knack for shooting a mid-range jumper that he has consistently used to find the bottom of the net.

In addition to that improved asset, he has begun to use his length to back defenders down for a fade away jumper or a hook shot.

With these improvements, he has sped toward Kansas forward Thomas Robinson in the player of the year race, where he is now considered by many to be a virtual co-favorite if not the favorite, as ESPN commentator Dick Vitale suggests.

The problem for Davis is that history isn’t on his side.

Aside from the fact UK has never had a player earn player of the year honors, similar players have failed to do so.

During Calipari’s inaugural season, freshman John Wall seemed to be a lock for the National Player of the Year award.

As the season moved forward, people began to see that Ohio State guard Evan Turner was improving the Buckeyes with a significantly less talented supporting cast.

This same theory is beginning to be applied with Robinson. On Saturday he matched the 28 points and double-digit rebound effort by Davis when he helped the Jayhawks knock off then No. 3 Missouri.

As previously mentioned, Davis has been compared to Shaq.

While O’Neal did win the AP National Player of the Year in 1991, it’s not the same as the Naismith, which is the ultimate title to accompany a player’s name.

Davis can have it precede his name much like Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Tim Duncan.

During his final season, 1991-1992, O’Neal averaged 24.1 points per game, 14 rebounds and 5.2 blocks, only to see Christian Laettner take the honors before he became the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by the Orlando Magic.

Calipari’s personal comparison to Davis of past player Marcus Camby won the award in 1996.

He did so while averaging less rebounds and blocks at season’s end than what Davis has now, but he averaged 20 points per game that season compared to Davis’ 14.3.

If Davis claims the title as college basketball’s best player, he will have done so after averaging the least amount of points since T.J. Ford in 2003 with 15 points per game.

Much of the same applies to the Associated Press Player of the Year award, except for one detail Calipari has already acknowledged.

Calipari has critics, and he believes that regardless of how good Davis may be, some of those writers with votes will refuse to give their vote to the Cats’ freshman.

On the other hand, history had previously never seen a player like Davis swat another long 6-foot-10 forward until this season when Davis did so to seal a win on national television.