Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings discusses the Kentucky Wildcats and freshman forward Anthony Davis…
Can Davis sweep national awards?
If Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis needs any extra support for national awards, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings certainly could be his spokesman. Davis leads the nation in blocked shots with 127, ranks third in field goal percentage at 65.1 percent (140 of 215) and is 25th in rebounding at 9.9 per game. His 11 double-doubles tie him for 23rd in the nation. He also leads Kentucky in steals (38) and scoring (14.0 points per game). That's why not only could he be in line for national defensive player of the year and as well as freshman of the year, but also for the overall player of the year. "I would be surprised if there was anybody out there who was any better. I?can't profess to say I study all the top players or who would be the best candidates for player of the year, but I?have a hard time believing anybody could have more impact on the success of a team than Anthony Davis is and that would be whether it is a freshman or any other classification," said Stallings. "I can't imagine a more impactful defensive player in all of college basketball than he is. I would not be surprised in the least if he swept all the awards, and he would be very deserving." Since the 1985-1986 season, no player in NCAA Division I men's basketball has averaged at least 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game, and shot at least 65 percent from both the field and the free-throw line in a season. Davis is on pace to do all of that. "Yes, no doubt a shot for triple crown. Amazing player," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "Also, don't forget the grand slam with being No. 1 pick in the NBA draft." Davis is considered the consensus top pick in the June draft in mock drafts and team projections. Thomas Robinson of Kansas is the one player considered on the same level with Davis in player of the year projections with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger also ranked as a possible contender. Kevin Durant of Texas in 2007 is the only freshman to be named national player of the year. However, not since Ed Macauley of St. Louis averaged 13.6 points in 1948 has a player won the top award with such a low scoring average as what Davis has now. The last eight national player of the year winners averaged more than 20 points per game. Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News college basketball columnist, still believes it is possible for Davis to sweep the national awards despite his scoring average. "The player of the year will be the most difficult, though, because he spotted Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger a pretty good head start. When Davis was still finding his game early on, they were already dominating opponents," DeCourcy said. "I think Anthony is in the position now of needing to continue achieving to be in position in case the other two take a step backward. "But what's important is his recent dominance has been the most important component of the current winning streak, and it's the reason there is so much hope for Kentucky in March." Blue Ribbon College Basketball editor Chris Dortch believes it is "definitely possible" for one player to sweep the three national awards. "I think Anthony Davis pretty much has a lock on two of them," Dortch said. "At issue is national player of the year. If the season ended today, Davis would have plenty of competition from Thomas Robinson of Kansas. But I believe that by March, it's going to become very clear that Davis is the most impactful player in the country. And shouldn't that be the criteria for national player of the year?" Davis has had an uncanny propensity for being able to block shots without fouling. He has just 53 fouls in 811 minutes, or one foul every 15.3 minutes. It helps that he's been called for only three charges this season. Only twice — Old Dominion and Indiana — have his minutes been limited this season by foul trouble and he is blocking 2.4 shots for every foul he is committing. Stallings and Vanderbilt players talked about the best way to attack Davis was not to dribble, but go straight to the basket. "You can't dribble in the lane and give him time to get set to block the shot," Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli said. "Putting the ball on the floor against him is a mistake." Still, Davis had four of his seven blocks and five of his eight rebounds in the second half of the win at Vanderbilt. Kentucky leads the nation not only in blocked shots (243), but also in field goal defense (35.8) thanks in large part to Davis' presence. ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan recently noted how Davis uses his "length and second-jump ability to affect everything remotely near the paint" and that he can recover even when opponents try a head fake. Even if you get him up on a head fake, or find a forward streaking to the rim, Davis can recover quickly enough to challenge the shot. "Few players in college basketball can so comprehensively change games this way. That Davis does is his unique gift, Kentucky's overriding advantage,and the chief concern of 2012 title contenders everywhere," Brennan noted. Cortez Hale, Davis' high school coach in Chicago, thinks his former player should certainly be the Southeastern Conference and national defensive player of the year. "Anthony is on fire and has really been showing out on both ends of the floor,"?Hale said. "I think he really wants to be defensive player of the year and national player of the year. He was so determined his senior year to block as many shots as possible and he told me before he started at UK that he wanted to be the defensive stopper that everyone was saying that he was and he said that meant he was going to block every shot he possibly could. "I did think he would contend for national freshman of year just because — might be a little bias — but I just did not see any other freshman that was better than him or anyone that worked as hard as him to be good besides Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I really thought that those two would be co-freshman's of the year just because of their hard work and determination. I really did not think that he would be as high as he is now on the national player of the year just because of how good and deep the UK team is and I know the player of the year is usually based off your offensive stats rather than defensive stats, so I did not think he had a chance. "But now that is he up there in contention for it, I know and really hope that he gets it because he deserves it just because he has played very unselfishly this season and he has shown people that defense really wins games. I hope he wins all the awards and ties Kidd-Gilchrist for freshman of the year because I think Anthony would really like to see him get that award, too."
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