Anthony Davis shines brightest on Final Four stage as he carries Kentucky past Louisville to title game
NEW ORLEANS – They had come for Anthony Davis, come to drag him out of a Kentucky locker room still celebrating its 69-61 victory over Louisville. It was a game in which the freshman had delivered 18 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and a one-handed exclamation point alley-oop.
They had come to say Anthony Davis was needed at the press conference. Davis had already taken his left sneaker off and slipped on a black Nike flip flop. He hadn’t yet removed his right sneaker, though.
The NCAA official said it was time to go however, so Davis went. Immediately. He walked out of the locker room, up a ramp and to a waiting golf cart with one shoe on and one shoe off.
“He doesn’t know to say, ‘Hold on, let me take off the other shoe,’ ” DeWayne Peevy, UK’s media relations director said later.
Down the hall, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was comparing Davis to Bill Russell; in Charlotte, fans of the Bobcats were finding a positive in their pitiful 7-42 season; and across the country women were, for the first time ever, contemplating whether a unibrow on a man might actually be cool.
And Anthony Davis was walking around the back hallways of the Superdome looking ridiculous.
This dominating presence that only grew stronger and tougher in the most heated and pressurized moments imaginable was making sure – yes, sir – he was doing exactly what he was told.
He is the man-child that doesn’t like to disappoint or demand, not even to tell his teammates to pass him the ball more often.
“You have to understand, he shoots the fourth or fifth most shots on the team,” UK coach John Calipari said. “He was telling me, ‘Cal, tell them to throw it to me.’ ”
One day Anthony Davis is going to realize he is the singular star of his team and start making the demands that come with alpha-dog status. Right now, though, he is every bit a freshman in college, willing to be unselfish and concentrate on blocking shots and controlling the glass.
It’s the damndest of things, the national player of the year who may be too shy to score, yet so good he can take this high-pressure intrastate rivalry and coolly play a near flawless, all around game.
Kentucky (37-2) was ripe to be beaten Saturday, except Davis just wasn’t going to allow it, making every big play he could.
“The difference, quite frankly, [was] just Anthony Davis is the No.1 player in the draft,” Pitino said of Davis’ projected spot in June’s NBA selection process.
“When you’re playing against Bill Russell at the pro level, you realize why the Celtics won 11 world championships,” Pitino continued. “When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why [Kentucky is] so good. Not that their other players aren’t, but he’s so much of a factor.”
Davis actually was demonstrative by his standards Saturday. He dribbled out the final seconds of the game, threw the ball high in the air and screamed, “This is my stage.”
This is my stage? As trash talk goes, that isn’t very tough.
“Did you say that,” Calipari asked, surprised Davis was even that outspoken.
“Yeah,” Davis said. “We go hard in practice. We go out there to have fun. The emotions. I’m just glad to be here, national championship [game] as a freshman.”
Calipari smiled at the answer, which made little sense.
“Don’t ask him a follow-up,” Calipari said. “He doesn’t know why he was saying that.”
At this point, what’s the difference? That relatively mild bit of boasting was the first and only sign that the national semifinals were anything special to Davis.
Where a number of his teammates Saturday night had taken turns making unforced errors, poor fouls or looking out of sync, even as the team built a lead, Davis was running around like this was an exhibition game against Transylvania.
He just plays. There were the feathery little jump hooks that Louisville had no chance of ever stopping. There were the transition baskets. There was the mere thought of his long arms haunting the Cardinals around the rim, causing misses even when he wasn’t in position to block shots.
At one point he saw a match-up advantage and signaled to Calipari to call a play that got him the ball on the block. Cal did and Davis scored. On another he took his one errant shot of the game (7-of-8 shooting) and, like something out of a basketball manual, followed it as it was in the air, allowing him to scoop up the rebound, then dish it to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for an easy score.
Then there was the time he chased a loose ball out of bounds and had to leap off the raised up stage where the court sits, over press row and onto some carpet on the Superdome floor. He was risking, oh, maybe $200 million in future earnings.
Then he calmly jumped back up and got back into the action.
He was Superman, right out of the South Side of Chicago.
“He’s played like this all year,” Calipari said, before turning to Marquis Teague and Darius Miller. “You think he was better than the other games he played?”
Teague and Miller shook their heads.
It was true. This was the Anthony Davis Show, the way the season has shaped up to be the Anthony Davis Show.
There’s one more game, one more chance, one more “stage” for a kid of relentless ferocity around the rim but too shy to think of telling a NCAA official to give him a second so he doesn’t have to walk around with one shoe.
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