For everyone who has been impressed with Anthony Davis — ESPN analyst Dick Vitale is already calling him in the nation’s No. 1 freshman — and what he’s done so far this season, his high school coach says the best is yet to come.
“Anthony can be a lot better. You are not seeing his total game yet,” said Cortez Hale, Davis’ prep coach in Chicago. “I have seen him play ball for three years. I saw him grow from 6-3 to 6-10 and knew he would do great here. He’s not surprised me at all.
“He has not shown half of his talent yet. Right now all he is doing is blocking shots, dunking and playing defense. He is not shooting a lot and penetrating with the ball. There is a lot more coming from Anthony Davis. It’s not a surprise to see what he’s already done. That’s how good he is.
He’s already averaging 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game. He’s 39-for-58 from the field because most of his baskets have been on lob passes he’s turned into dunks or fast break dunks.
Davis also had the game-saving blocked shot against North Carolina last week that kept UK No. 1 going into this Saturday’s game at Indiana.
“Anthony just acted like that was another day, another win,” Hale, who made his first trip this season from Chicago to UK¿to watch Davis play, said. “Of course, he had a big smile on his face, but he knows he has to move on and focus on Indiana. He felt good about the win, but he was ready to move ahead.
“That was a great win. It made things a lot more fun for me to be here and see that. It was just an awesome play, but one he can make. He said he just had an OK game, but seeing everybody going crazy and getting so ecstatic after that block made it seem like it was a national championship game. He liked that and told me he really needed that block, but then again all he really wanted to talk about was playing Indiana.”
That’s part of what makes Davis so good. In high school, he would not look ahead. When he came to Kentucky, he talked about wanting to win a national title, not being the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft as many are already projecting him to be. After a game-winning blocked shot, he wants to focus on the next game, not the great play.
“That’s just Anthony.¿He is loving Kentucky and knows this is a great opportunity to reach his full potential and get better on and off the court,” Hale said. “He is going to be the same exact Anthony he always is. I can see him growing up, really enjoying college life. He’s becoming a young man, young adult. But everything else is the same and I think it will always continue to be that way with him.”
Hale thinks Davis learned some valuable lessons from North Carolina veteran inside players Tyler Zeller and John Henson Saturday that will help him improve.
“He was trying to post up a lot. I am happy to see him learning to be more of a post player. When the got the ball, he took advantage and went inside,”¿Hale said. “The bad thing is he was letting Zeller push him around too much to get position. In the second half, he did a lot better job beating him to a spot and playing more physical.
“He got way more physical and Zeller was not as comfortable with that. I think he learned some valuable lessons. That was a huge test for him to measure up against Zeller and Henson. Now he sees all he has got to do to play with guys like that and what he has to do better.”
Hale said he had never seen Davis’ parents, Erainer and Anthony Davis, happier than they were after the North Carolina win.
“I have never seen them as happy as they were at that game. His mom, dad and grandma are all huge fans and were always the first to congratulate me, the team and the coaches after our games. They are very supportive, but they are loving Kentucky,” Hale said. “After that win, they were going crazy. They could not stop looking at the highlights. They were so excited.
“I was around a lot of the players after the game. They said it was just like March Madness out there. They want to see them again, too. They want to play the best, so their thinking was why not play them again in a bigger moment like the Final Four.”
Why not? The last few Kentucky-North Carolina games have all been special and with it looking more and more like the UK-Carolina series might take a little hiatus, wouldn’t it be fun to see those two powers have an April rematch with the national title at stake.
Of course, there are a lot of games to be played before then — and Hale hopes to see the Cats several more times. He won’t be in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday — “we have our own game Saturday” — but he’s already got plans to be back for the Jan. 17 game against Arkansas.
“I will be back many more times,” Hale said. “I am coming down all I¿can. I¿hate I¿won’t be back until January, but I¿do have my season to worry about, too. I¿would love to be there every game to watch Anthony, but I¿can’t. However, whenever I¿can be there, I guarantee you I am coming because there’s going to be a lot more to see from him.”
Hale: Rupp Arena amazing
Cortez Hale knew Rupp Arena was supposed to be a special place to watch a basketball game. However, the Chicago high school coach admitted he had no idea just how special watching Kentucky host North Carolina would be when he came to watch his former star, Anthony Davis, play for the Wildcats Saturday.
“It was way better than I expected. It exceeded my expectations,” said Hale, who coached UK freshman center Anthony Davis in high school. “Rupp Arena is amazing. It’s something everybody should experience. I have never experienced anything like that in a NBA arena or at the Final Four even. It was so loud and crazy. People are so supportive of Kentucky. Everybody acts like they are playing.”
That’s what jumped out at me from Sporting News college basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy as well when I asked him his toughts.