College Basketball Nation: Kelvin Davis

San Diego State's Fisher puts it all together

March, 13, 2010
LAS VEGAS -- When Kawhi Leonard put pen to paper and signed his national letter of intent in November 2008, it was somewhat of a head-scratcher.

San Diego State had just landed California's Mr. Basketball. He went on to become the conference's freshman of the year. Today, you can also call Leonard the Mountain West Conference tournament's MVP, as he led the Aztecs to the NCAAs with a 21-rebound, 16-point performance in a 55-45 win against UNLV.

[+] EnlargeSteve Fisher
AP Photo/Laura RauchLed by Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher has put togehter a championship team.
"He's at San Diego State for this," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "For this. He knew where people would care for him. He knew where we would be true to helping him grow his game, grow him as a person. And he trusted in us.

"We don't have to get on knee pads to recruit against the Pac-10. We don't beat 'em often. But we got a guy that right now they would all love a mulligan to try to get involved with him."

These Aztecs aren't exactly the "Fab Five" Fisher had at Michigan, but somehow on a smaller stage, he's pieced together a championship team with players who needed a second chance.

Leonard stuck with San Diego State when Pac-10 schools didn't seem as interested.

Guard Kelvin Davis, who carried the league trophy into the press conference, transferred out of UTEP, beat Hodkin's lymphoma and then cashed in his sixth year of eligibility with a title.

Center Brian Carlwell got a change of scenery and provided a 297-pound presence in the middle after literally being left for dead by a University of Illinois teammate after a 2007 car crash.

Junior college transfer Malcolm Thomas and freshman Chase Tapley were a part of the recruiting class with Leonard that put the Aztecs over the top.

"I have said to many people that this is a great group of guys to be with. They're respectful. We've had more compliments this year on airplanes and hotels and in airports about that with our kids.

"They respect one another. They trust one another. They have pride in one another. And that wins."

Leonard cleaned up on the glass on UNLV's errant shots and also hit all eight of his second-half free throws to help seal the win. As Fisher said, "Kawhi is Kawhi. Every ball that comes off the board is his."

Fisher and Leonard also made sure to spread around credit for the championship. The scoring came from Billy White. The tough point guard play came from D.J. Gay.

Leonard said he didn't necessarily envision any of this when he first set foot on campus.

"We just set team goals," Leonard said.

San Diego State wins MWC tournament

March, 13, 2010
San Diego State is off to the NCAA tournament after beating UNLV on its home floor 55-45, and the Aztecs will go dancing for the first time since 2006.

Kawhi Leonard set a Mountain West Conference tournament record with a career-high 21 rebounds to go along with 16 points to lead the Aztecs, and he was named the MVP of the event.

San Diego State committed 18 turnovers, but also forced 15 of them, with UNLV shooting only 32.7 percent from the field.

It was San Diego State students who rushed the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center after chanting "this is our house" in the game's waning moments.

Point guard D.J. Gay added 11 points, and senior Kelvin Davis had nine.

UNLV got 11 points each out of Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield.

Halftime: San Diego State 25, UNLV 22

March, 13, 2010
LAS VEGAS -- Yep, you read that right. Some notes:

  • One way to tell this is an ugly game is by looking at the total number of made field goals (18) versus turnovers (14) by the two teams combined. Thirteen field goal attempts missed before San Diego State's Kelvin Davis scored on a dunk with nearly five minutes having elapsed. UNLV's first field goal came after that one a banked in jumper from Oscar Bellfield.
  • Kawhi Leonard continues to show off his tools. He has already collected a whopping 13 rebounds, including five offensive boards. The Aztecs also happen to have 13 more rebounds than the Rebels, who are still missing that interior presence with Derrick Jasper out.
  • Billy White, the Las Vegas native, has only one point after scoring a career-high 28 last night for San Diego State.