NEW ORLEANS - He’s already racked up enough national player- and freshman-of-the-year awards to fill a Winnebago, so there’s only one thing left for Kentucky’s Anthony Davis
to get done before he heads off to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
And what happens if he leads Kentucky to the NCAA championship in the Big Easy on Monday night? How might his brief but brilliant college career come to be regarded from a historical perspective?
“I think we’re seeing what Kevin Garnett
would have been like had he played college ball,” ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes
That begs the question the Fast Break brought up in December. Could Davis be the best player Kentucky’s John Calipari
has coached? Remember that Cal also coached Derrick Rose
and Marcus Camby
“The best player he’s ever coached is Rose, and the second best would be Camby,” said Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan
, who’s seen as much high-level basketball in college and the NBA as anyone. “The comparison would be between Davis and Camby. It’s interesting. I saw a lot of Marcus Camby. And he wasn’t the overall monstrous threat at both ends that this kid is. Period.
“[Davis has] started expanding his game and showing us he can actually face up and make 3s. And you see the ball-handling skill and the overall fluidity of his game, and you start thinking about what historical comparisons do we have? At seven feet, you’re talking about Kevin Garnett. And uh, and uh, and uh … not many others.”
Garnett played high school basketball in an era where he could bypass college and jump straight to the NBA. We never got to see what he could have done at the college level. Thus, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg isn’t ready to say Davis has been as impactful as Patrick Ewing
or Hakeem Olajuwon
were as freshmen. His test sample encompasses a shorter time period.
“I tend to look at it in 15-year windows,” Kellogg said. “I go back to maybe 1996, ’97. And there hasn’t been anybody quite as unique as [Davis] as a first-year player. He’s highly skilled and a real presence with his shot blocking. But the poise and discipline he shows in doing that is what I’ve marveled at. He just never seems to get himself out of position.
“He’s got a really good feel and understanding for the game. You talk to him and you can tell he understands what needs to be done. He’s pretty studious about it. That’s a special package.”
The package also comes with one of the more unique stories in many years. As a high school sophomore, Davis was 6-foot-2 and hoping to earn a scholarship with a mid-major program. After growing eight inches over the course of a year, he’s now being compared to Kevin Garnett.
“When you talk about the great freshmen in the history of the NCAA Tournament, Anthony Davis is going to be able to put his name up there with those type of players,” said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. “The beauty of Anthony Davis
is we didn’t follow him for four years of high school. We’re watching him blossom before our eyes as a college freshman, without going through the entire AAU process. That’s refreshing. That’s what’s fun about him.
“It’s a great story because he’s a late bloomer in more ways than one, and he’s got such great poise for a guy with all of his natural gifts.”
KENTUCKY-LOUISVILLE, PART II
: If Davis is to lead Kentucky to the national championship, the Wildcats will have to get by Louisville and former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino
in Saturday’s national semifinals first.
Predictably, the build-up to the game has centered on the rivalry between the two schools. It was intense before Pitino took over at Louisville. Now, it’s gotten to the point where a Louisville fan punched out a Kentucky fan in a dialysis clinic. In other words, it’s insane.
In the final press conferences before what should be a memorable matchup, Pitino and Calipari were asked about a comment Cal supposedly made about the state of Kentucky having only one program.
“He made a mistake probably in what he said,” Pitino said. “He was more speaking about the magnitude of Kentucky basketball. I don’t think he meant disrespect toward Louisville. … It doesn’t light a fire under us any more. We want to beat them badly.”
Cal denies any dis.
“What I said was, we have a ton of Kentucky fans in Louisville,” he said. “It’s just a unique place. I’ve never seen anything like it. There was no disrespect. It’s that we have the state’s name: Kentucky. Our fans are throughout. That doesn’t disrespect Louisville at all. It wasn’t meant to.”
ORIAKHI IN PLAY FOR SEC?
: Since being given his release from UConn earlier this week, junior forward Alex Oriakhi
has been the subject of considerable attention in SEC country, given that three league schools - Kentucky, Florida and Missouri - have been mentioned among those the big man is considering.
But there’s a stumbling block for SEC schools bidding for Oriakhi’s services - a league rule that prohibits one-year transfers. In case you don’t happen to have a copy of the SEC’s bylaws on your nightstand, here’s the verbiage:
SEC Bylaw 14.1.15: "A student-athlete who, upon enrollment at the certifying institution, has less than two years of eligibility remaining, is not eligible for financial aid, practice or competition at the member institution. A member institution may request a waiver from the Conference office for a student-athlete transferring from an institution discontinuing a sport, or for a student-athlete transferring for the purpose of enrolling in an academic program not offered at the institution from which he or she is transferring."
Note that there is a provision for a waiver. And Oriakhi’s case may get some consideration because UConn, unless it wins an appeal, won’t be eligible for the NCAA Tournament next season because of a low Academic Progress Rate (APR).
BEAL CONSIDERING OPTIONS
: He’s considered a lock to be a top-five pick in the June NBA Draft, but Florida freshman Bradley Beal
’s decision to declare or return for another season isn’t as easy as some might think. The reason is refreshing: He actually likes college.
Beal also has a sour taste after the way the Gators were denied a spot in the Final Four by Louisville, which rallied late to win the West Regional final.
Florida loses point guard Erving Walker
but will return a solid nucleus. Sophomore post Patric Young
has already told the media he plans to return next season. Shooting guard Kenny Boynton
and forward Erik Murphy
will be seniors. And Florida has restocked its backcourt with four-star recruits Braxton Ogbueze
, a point, and Michael Frazier
, rated one of the top 15 two-guards in the country.
If Beal stays a part of that mix, coach Billy Donovan
will have another potential Elite Eight team on his hands.