ATLANTA – Anthony Davis played high school basketball for a school that didn’t have a gym or a winning record, so you would think he’d be overwhelmed playing for John Calipari and a program with as rabid a fan base as Kentucky.
But he’s not.
“It’s been great to be on a team that’s been on winning streaks,” said Davis, who played at Perspectives. “[Perspectives] wasn’t a basketball school, and it was more about academics. I knew what type of basketball program it was, but I didn’t care. I was loyal to my teammates and didn’t want to transfer.”
In Davis’ senior year, Perspectives went 6-19. But rather than transfer and sit out a year, Davis stayed. And now he’s leading Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.
Davis and the Wildcats have a rematch with Indiana in a South Regional semifinal Friday at the Georgia Dome. The Hoosiers (27-8) are one of two teams – Vanderbilt was the other one – who’ve beaten Kentucky (34-2).
Davis is huge now, but he was only a 6-3 guard in high school. A seven-inch growth spurt between his junior and senior years turned him into the nation’s top recruit.
The 6-10 Davis has had the kind of freshman season that would make it difficult to stay with Calipari. He could end up being a “one-and-done” and enter the NBA draft June 28.
Davis is projected as the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. And it’s no surprise.
He has averaged a double-double – 14.3 points and 10.1 rebounds – and notched double figures in points and rebounds 18 times. Those numbers have helped Davis earn the national player of the year award, the national defensive player of the year award and the national freshman of the year award – to name just a few.
But his first order of business is leading Kentucky to an eighth NCAA title.
“I really haven’t decided yet,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to win a national championship for my team, and then when the time comes, whether it’s this year or next year or whatever the year, that’s when I’m going to have to sit down with my family and my coaches and decide what to do.”
The Hoosiers are enjoying a resurgence under coach Tom Crean after a tumultuous three years that saw the program go on NCAA probation.
Indiana’s renewed vigor was in full view in a 73-72 upset victory over No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10 in Bloomington, Ind. It was clearly a signature win for Indiana that catapulted the program back to its former glory, and the Hoosiers went on to beat then-No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan State.
“Kentucky is considerably better than what they were when we played them when they were No. 1, and they were really good then,” Crean said. “Their team is clicking on all cylinders, and their team defense is phenomenal.”