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Thursday, June 28, 2012
Updated: June 27, 4:35 PM ET
Anthony Davis' unexpected rise

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- When Anthony Davis was in high school, he wasn't supposed to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

He wasn't projected to be 6-foot-10. He was never on a fast track to the NBA. He was barely a Division I prospect.

That was just two-plus years ago.

But then he grew seven inches at Perspectives Charter High, a charter school on Chicago's South Side. He played AAU basketball for Mean Streets and got noticed beyond the city prior to his senior season.

He was suddenly one of the most coveted players in the country.

But what you learn after spending time with Davis and his family is that the attention he is receiving is so new, so foreign, that he still has trouble grasping the entire concept. And this is even after being the consensus national player of the year and leading Kentucky to a national championship two months ago in New Orleans.

How much of a fantasy would this have been three years ago?

"I wouldn't have believed you," said Davis as he sat in the library at his high school the week of the NBA's pre-draft camp earlier this month. "It just came natural -- all at once, being a champion, growing, being the No. 1 draft pick, I would have never believed it all. It's just been a blessing from God."

Davis said he has a hard time when he's alone rationalizing what has occurred.

"I look back at the last couple of years in my life, if I haven't done this, would this have happened? If I didn't play AAU, would I have gone to Kentucky? If I didn't go to Kentucky, would I have been a national champion? If I wasn't a national champion would I still declare for the NBA," Davis said. "I just try to look back at everything and see what my next move would be."

Davis was a shooting guard when he started high school. His only Division I scholarship offer at the time was from Cleveland State and that was because he had a connection.

"I knew a referee that used to ref some of our games and his sons went there and he said I could get you in there no problem," said Davis of Cleveland State. "I told my dad, 'let's commit,' there's no point in waiting so I'm a junior in high school with no other offers, no other guys are looking at me. It was still Division I, the Horizon League, and if I keep playing hard then someone will find me. My dad told me to wait it out and see how the AAU season goes."

Davis said he was 6-3 at the time. He said he could shoot the lace off the ball.

Davis wasn't pushed to be a star. He wasn't traversing the country on the grassroots circuit yet. He stayed close with his family, spending his time with his tight-knit kin of his parents (Anthony and Erainer), twin sister (Antoinette) and older sister (Lesha).

"We're very close, we do a lot of things together," Davis said. "We try not to exclude anyone out. We love each other to death. We do everything together."

So Davis worked on his guard skills and enjoyed just playing basketball, without a guarantee of stardom, and hanging out with his family.

When the growth spurt came he was suddenly thrown in the post, but he wanted to be a guard.

He didn't know what to do when he got to Kentucky in the post -- last fall.

"I had to get accustomed to playing in the post, rebounding, the whole shot-blocking ability came naturally, I don't know where it came from," Davis said. "I had never blocked shots, I blocked a couple of shots in high school because I was so much taller than everybody but in college I wasn't sure where it came from."

Davis said Kentucky coach John Calipari rode him when practice started. But then Davis said he started to "mess up" the drills by blocking shots.

"I realized I had a knack for this, I could really block shots so I just took pride in it and kept doing it," Davis said.

Yet, Davis' confidence was still shaky.

Finally, he started to get the hang of playing in the post and told Calipari that he was ready to get the ball.

"I started to feel comfortable so why not just give me a chance,'' Davis said.

Davis finished the season with 186 blocks, 54 steals, making 62.3 percent of his shots, scoring 14.2 points and grabbing 10.4 rebounds a game. Kentucky lost one regular-season game, at Indiana, one in the SEC tournament, to Vanderbilt, and didn't lose again.

But you would never know that Davis had game-day anxiety.

"I'm always scared before every game," Davis said. "I'm nervous, you might not tell, but I'm nervous before every game. I know I have to perform well and that's just myself. I don't want to ever have a bad game. I always want to perform well. That's kind of my fear, am I going to perform well or bad, you never know.

"Especially when I miss my first couple of shots, I'm like 'Oh man, I can see how this game's gonna go.' So I just keep a level head, block everything out, just take it one shot at a time, if I miss a shot get back on defense and just play from there."

Davis will be counted on to star immediately for New Orleans. He said he knows that coach Monty Williams' squad is defensive-oriented, which suits him perfectly.

"Hopefully I can help them offensively, as well," Davis said. "Hopefully if I get drafted there I'll make a big impact and try to help them win."

Davis said he has no problem being known as the "uni-blocker" thanks to his trademark unibrow.

Did he ever consider trimming the hair between his eyebrows?

"Kentucky made shirts, posters, everything they can think of, they made it," Davis said. "So I was like well, I can't cut it now?"

Is this a good look?

"It's me," Davis said. "I was made this way so I'm going to keep it. I actually like it. Some people like it, some people don't so they all got to deal with it now."

And who is he? He's the most intimidating player in the draft -- one who never would've predicted this would occur a mere two years ago.