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October 5, 2011

Davis make smooth transition from guard to big man





Anthony Davis was clueless.

What was he doing in this painted area of the court? Why was he playing basketball so close to the rim?

Davis had grown up playing the game, but then one summer he'd grown up - seven inches up, to be precise - and suddenly, basketball was all new.

"It was just like, 'Oh, wow, I'm taller now. What do I do?'" said Davis, the Kentucky freshman forward who went from 6-foot-3 to 6-10 in the summer before his senior year of high school. "I had no post moves whatsoever."

Why would he? Davis had come of age in Chicago playing in the backcourt. He put the ball on the floor. He came off screens. He shot pull-up jumpers. Suddenly, he had a new body that required a whole new set of skills.

And only one of them, it turns out, came naturally.

"I'm not sure what happened, but I just started blocking shots and just loved it," Davis said. "I just loved putting somebody's shot on the glass or blocking it out of bounds or sending it to the third row. It was just great. I really took pride in that, and I have great timing, so I know when to jump, and I just loved it."

The ability to start swatting shots was the biggest perk of that growth spurt, but Davis insists there was no downside. He never had an awkward phase, he insists, never struggled to find his footing in a brand-new frame.

But growing into a center made Davis the center of attention at tiny Perspectives Charter School in Chicago. Davis' Perspectives campus - one of five in the Chicago area - had fewer than 200 students.

Davis was a one-man band for Perspectives, which went 6-18 in his senior season. He could have transferred to a big-name prep school prior to his senior season. Certainly there would have been takers.

The thought never crossed Davis' mind.

"I just loved my team," Davis said. "People say, 'Oh, your team was terrible. You should have transferred.' But there's no point. If I made a commitment to my team, I'm going to stay with it. Just like I have a commitment to this team. I'm not going to transfer or anything. I'm going to stay with my team."

Still, Davis admits he's happy to be playing on a team stacked with talent at Kentucky a scenario that he said takes "a lot of pressure off me."

Stepping up a level doesn't seem to have slowed Davis.

He hasn't stopped with the shot blocking. Ask his Kentucky teammates, who will tell you how hard it is to loft a shot over his outreached hand. Ask guard Twany Beckham, who before transferring to UK played with Jarvis Varnado, the NCAA's all-time leader in blocked shots, at Mississippi State.

"Jarvis was very hard to score on, and Anthony's the same way," Beckham said. "I feel like he has the ability to block shots and cover the rim like Jarvis did. It's scary."

So, Davis has figured out that part of being a big man.

And he's coming along on the offensive end.

He still tends to play like a guard, mind you. Kentucky coach John Calipari compares Davis to Marcus Camby, whom Calipari coached at Massachusetts. But ask Davis the player after whom he models his game, and he's quick to cite Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.

Durant is "built like me, comes off screens, shoots the ball," Davis said, and has the ability to play in the post "when he has to."

If that sounds like a guy who's not thrilled about playing on the block, it probably should. At heart, Davis is a guard, at least at the offensive end. But he's coming around.

"The post moves, they're really not that hard once you just keep going over them and over them and over them," Davis said.

Camby eventually mastered those skills under Calipari. Davis has a head start.

"Anthony can make threes and has those skills," Calipari said. "Physically (Camby) had the same kind of body. I'll be honest with you, Anthony is probably a little ahead, but Anthony is not as tall as him. (Davis is) physically ahead, skills-shooting-the-ball ahead."



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