It was only three years before winning a national championship, being named the AP National Player of the Year and earning dozens of other accolades in his sole season at Kentucky that Anthony Davis was a complete unknown to the basketball world. He finished his sophomore year of high school as a 6'4" skilled but scrawny point guard with just one college offer—which came from Cleveland State.
Then, he began to sprout like a weed. Davis grew four inches going into his junior season and was a mighty 6'10" by the time his senior year rolled around. All the while, he retained the coordination and abilities of his former self.
Davis made the most of his newfound size, averaging a remarkable 32 points, 22 rebounds and seven blocks per contest in his final season at the small Perspective Charter School in Chicago. He became the hottest commodity in the recruiting circuit; one that college coaches across the country could only drool over.
That minuscule offer from the Cleveland State Vikings was in the past. Davis was now considering the big boys, such as Ohio State, Syracuse and Kentucky. In November of 2010, Davis signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Kentucky Wildcats, citing John Calipari's honesty as a coach as a leading factor. Coach Cal has had past success in developing his players and preparing them for the next level—an impressive list that includes Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
To say that Davis had a successful freshman campaign would be an understatement. He dominated in every facet of the word. It is not an easy task to live up to such immense hype—just ask Harrison Barnes—but Davis not only met the high expectations set forth for him, he surpassed them.
Davis quickly became the most oppressive defensive player in college hoops and led his Wildcats to a 38-2 overall record and a national championship. Davis' great all-around game allowed him to be the most dominant player on the floor in every game. This proved true even in games where he struggled to score, such as the season finale against the Kansas Jayhawks where he had 16 boards, five assists and six blocks to offset his subpar six points on a mediocre 1-10 shooting from the floor.
One of the most impressive aspects of Davis's game has been his unique ability to block shots without fouling. "The Unibrow Man" swatted away an NCAA leading and all-time single-season Kentucky record 186 shots, or 4.7 per game. This number surpasses both Shaquille O'Neal's average of 3.6 per game as a freshman at LSU as well as Marcus Camby's average of 3.9 in his best year at Massachusetts.
Davis has perfect timing when jumping up for a denial, allowing for him to routinely reject jump shots in addition to layups in the key. His presence alone intimidated opposing players at the college level and caused them to alter their shot selection.
It will be a transition for him when going against much more talented players in the NBA who know how to finish at the rim with authority. He will have to learn to stay on his feet at times, rather than going for every block, as young big men often have problems staying out of foul trouble. This is an adjustment, however, that Davis is very well capable of making.
Due to his unique combination of size, skill and quickness, Davis is a matchup nightmare for just about any foe. He can take his defenders in the post, shoot the mid-range jumper or drive on them from the outside. Davis also runs the floor extremely well, can dribble the ball up from coast to coast and is a dominant rebounder.
Who was the best big man prospect in recent drafts?
The Kentucky forward finished the season averaging a double-double of 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds along with 1.4 steals and the aforementioned 4.7 stuffs per contest. He is widely expected to be taken by the New Orleans Hornets with the top overall selection in the draft on June 28. Hornets General Manager Dell Demps all but confirmed this, jokingly saying in an interview with DraftExpress that the No. 1 pick in the draft is "top secret."
Though Davis' family was initially upset that Charlotte did not win the lottery, New Orleans is the better fit for him long-term. Playing alongside an up-and-coming star in shooting guard Eric Gordon will be a great experience for Davis and will give the team a great foundation for the future. The Hornets also have the 10th overall draft pick and enough cap space to do some substantial damage in free agency, which will give their rebuilding project a major boost.
The do-it-all power forward has all the makings of a perennial franchise player. With his elite athleticism, dominant knack for blocking shots and rebounding and the ability to be effective without needing to score, Davis is arguably the best prospect since LeBron James.
He will need to bulk up a little this offseason to be able to bang in the post against seasoned NBA veterans, but given his broad shoulders, it seems like a doable task. The sky is the limit for this 19-year-old phenom.