Video of Davis accepting award at the bottom | Photo gallery of presentation
NEW ORLEANS – Anthony Davis closed the college basketball awards season on Sunday with perhaps the most prestigious individual award of them all.
Nearly completing a sweep of every major college basketball award, Kentucky’s freshman phenom was named the 2012 Naismith Trophy recipient as the national player of the year. Michigan State’s Draymond Green won the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ player of the year award to prevent Davis from sweeping all seven major awards, but Davis became the first player from Kentucky to win the Naismith Trophy.
Davis beat out Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Green for the honor.
He’s only the second freshman to win the award, joining Texas’ Kevin Durant (2007), and he’s the first player from the Southeastern Conference to claim the award since LSU’s Pete Maravich won in 1970.
“Wow, this truly is an honor to win the Naismith award as a freshman,” Davis said Sunday at the NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show. “It’s great. The other three finalists are great players, had tremendous seasons. I have to go against one of them (Robinson) tomorrow night. It’s going to be a big challenge. It’s a great honor and I just was to thank God, family, friends, coaches and all the people who helped me get this award, and all the fans.”
Davis was also presented with the Spalding Pete Newell Big Man of the Year award and NABC Defensive Player of the Year award at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The Chicago native has already collected the John R. Wooden Award, Associated Player of the Year honors and the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
He’s hoping the individual awards will be nothing more than a backdrop for a much bigger, much more important trophy on Monday. Davis’ team, Kentucky, plays Kansas for the 2011-12 national championship.
“I’m so proud of Anthony,” John Calipari said. “Here’s a guy who’s taken the fourth?most shots on our team and yet he’s the best player in college basketball. He defers to his teammates. He bought into our system and basically said, ‘Tell me how you want me to play.’ He’s been the ultimate team player and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Davis was selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, in addition to fan voting via text message, which accounted for 25 percent of the final results, more than any other national college basketball award. The voting academy based its criteria on player performances throughout the season.
Past winners include Michael Jordan (1984), Ralph Sampson (1981?83), Larry Bird (1979), Patrick Ewing (1985), Bill Walton (1972?74) and last year’s winner, Jimmer Fredette, from BYU. Marcus Camby, a star under Coach Cal at Massachusetts, won it in 1996.
Davis has had one of the most memorable freshman campaigns in national history. He averages a team-leading 14.4 points and 10.2 rebounds, a nation-best 4.6 blocks, all while leading the Wildcats to a 36-2 overall record, their first national championship berth since 1998, and an undefeated Southeastern Conference regular season and championship.
The 6-foot-10 forward has logged 180 blocks, the most in SEC history, and he’s just three shy of breaking the NCAA’s single-season record. He’s also been the driving force in helping the Wildcats break the NCAA all-time mark with a running total of 333 for the season.
Davis recently surpassed DeMarcus Cousins’ freshman record for rebounds in a season with 399 boards. On Saturday in a win over Louisville, he recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds, trying Cousins’ freshman double-double record of 20 games
One more to go: UK headed back to national championship