Measurables: 6'10", 220 lbs
High School: Perspectives Charter (Chicago)
Recruiting Rankings: 5*/2nd (Rivals), 5*/1st (Scout), 5*/1st (ESPNU)
Accolades: McDonald's A-A, Nike Hoop Summit Participant, Jordan Brand Classic MVP, USA Today A-A, Wootten POY Finalist, Naismith POY Finalist
The recruitment of Anthony Davis is one of the more bizarre stories in recent memory. In this age of Twitter-breaking news and internet sensationalism, Anthony Davis remained a complete unknown in recruiting circles until the spring of 2010. Despite being from the basketball hotbed of Chicago, Davis wasn't listed on any recruiting boards for a variety of reasons. First, prior to his junior season, he measured just 6'2" and was a ball-handling guard. Second, he played for a little-known, academic-oriented high school. Finally, he never had an AAU presence until he joined MeanStreets during his junior year.
Davis' rise to prominence began not in high school games, but on the AAU circuit. He first surfaced on the recruiting radar at the Boo Williams Invitational in April 2010, then weeks later, exploded at the Nike Spring Showdown and Spiece Run 'N Slam (see video below). National recognition soon followed. Davis skyrocketed from an unranked prospect to a five-star phenom. Upon updating their recruiting boards, Rivals shot Davis to 8th overall, Scout to 5th. Previously mulling interest from the likes of Cleveland State, Davis was now heavily pursued by coaching heavyweights Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Thad Matta (Ohio State), and John Calipari.
In August 2010, amidst rumors that Davis was close to verbaling to Kentucky, the Chicago Sun-Times dropped a bombshell allegation, asserting that the "cost" of said verbal commitment was an agreed-upon $200,000. It's an accusation that the Davises vehemently denied. Davis' father, Anthony Sr., even threatened to sue the Sun-Times. Kentucky, likewise, denied the rumor. Since then, it's been much ado about nothing. The Sun-Times stood by its original story, claiming three anonymous sources. To date, the Davises have not filed any lawsuit. And both Kentucky and the NCAA have shown no indication of investigating the matter further.
Davis did, in fact, commit to Kentucky days after the publication of the Sun-Times column, joining fellow 5 star verbals Marquis Teague and Michael Gilchrist in UK's recruiting class (Kyle Wiltjer would commit later that month). The remainder of his recruitment was dull by comparison. Davis took an official visit to Kentucky in October, then signed his LOI in November during the early signing period.
The most striking aspect of Davis' game is best described as "small man skills in a big man body." Having played basketball for the majority of his life as a guard, Davis is a top-notch ballhandler and a visionary passer from the perimeter. On top of that, he possesses a nice jumper with long distance range. On defense, he plays passing lanes well, showing the ability to pick off errant passes and start fast breaks in the opposite direction (for an example, see the 0:41 mark in the McDonald's A-A practice video below). Amazingly, his growth spurt did little to slow the prowess of any of his guard-type skills.
Even more amazingly, Davis understands how to effectively utilize his newfound height, particularly on the defensive end of the court. He is at his best as a help defender in the paint, and he has the wherewithal to be one of the leading shotblockers in the nation next year. On both ends of the court, he is an agile and high-leaping rebounder; go ahead and tattoo "double-double" machine on his forehead. Particularly on the offensive glass, Davis will be a nuisance at gobbling up loose basketballs, particularly if his primary defender doesn't box him out properly.
Given the weakness of Perspective Charter's athletics program and division classification, it's difficult to truly gauge Davis' talent from his high school film. However, Davis more than showed he was ready to compete against the elite. On the postseason All-Star circuit, Davis was consistently one of the best players on the court. He saved his best performance for the Jordan Brand Classic, garnering MVP honors with a 29 point, 11 rebound, 4 block showing.
Davis' immediate concern heading into the collegiate game is strength. Rivals generously lists him at 220 pounds. In reality, he may be closer to the 200 pounds listed by ESPN. Frankly, DeMarcus Cousins he is not. At Kentucky, Davis will draw the majority of his minutes playing at the 5 position. Consequently, he will often match up against big men at a significant weight disadvantage. When SEC play starts, he'll face bruisers like Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli or Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney that will utilize brute strength to put the ball in the bucket.
In the long-term, Davis will need to work on developing and refining a post-game rather than solely relying on superior ball-handling from outside. Initially, it wouldn't be surprising to see Davis play as a stretch 5, spending a majority of his time on the perimeter and utilizing the paint primarily to crash the boards. However, Kentucky will spend significant practice time to develop an inside game for the talented big. Give Davis a handful of devastating post moves, and he will be close to unstoppable, especially at the college level.
Kentucky fans' expectations for Davis should be sky high, and rightfully so. NBA Scouts are already drooling, tagging him a near-unanimous choice for first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft (see: Chad Ford | Draft Express | NBADraft.net). Barring any additional unexpected growth spurts, Davis will man the 4 in the pros. However, Kentucky's primary need will be at the 5 after the departure of senior Josh Harrellson. Expect Davis to slide into the starting lineup immediately to fill that void.
It's difficult to ask a true freshman to come in and be a difference-maker, and fortunately for Davis, he doesn't necessarily have to be. He'll be paired with sophomore returnee Terrence Jones to form the best 4/5 duo in college basketball (although UNC's Tyler Zeller and John Henson may beg to differ).
On offense, Jones, along with a sharpshooting perimeter cast, will draw attention away from Davis. That will leave Davis in multiple one-on-one situations and free to roam for loose balls. As a plus ballhandler, he will slide into Calipari's DDMO effectively, either as the interior option or an occasional perimeter flex. Calipari may also utilize him with Teague or Doron Lamb in the screen-and-roll game that was so deadly run by Brandon Knight and Harrellson. Further, Davis' biggest contribution could likely be on the defensive side of the ball as an anchor in the paint. Against lesser 5's, he should be incredible as a help defender and shotblocker.
Even with the talent returning for Kentucky, it's easy to envision Davis being the Wildcats' best player by year-end. He should contend for Freshman Player of the Year honors, and it's not out of the question to see him make Wooden and Naismith POY finalist lists.
Don't blink or you'll miss him. Barring injury or new NBA collect bargaining restrictions, this will be Davis' only year in a Kentucky uniform. It should be a great one.
McDonald's All-American Practices (April 2011)
Perspectives vs. Phoenix (1/25/11)
Perspectives vs. Whitney Young (12/16/10)
Spiece Run 'N Slam (May 2010)