The Meteoric Rise Of Anthony DavisPosted by nvr1983 on July 20th, 2010
For most of his high school career, Michael Gilchrist (a recent Kentucky verbal commit), has been the top-rated player in his class. Now it looks like the talented small foward might be losing his place atop those rankings through no fault of his own. Instead, the reason for his drop is the spectacular play of Anthony Davis over the past few weeks, which has prompted many analysts to anoint the 6’10″ power forward out of the “Mean Streets” of Chicago (that’s actually his AAU team’s name) as the new #1 player in the rising senior class. Davis has been rising up the charts so rapidly that even in-state schools like Illinois have only began to pay particular attention to him in the past few months. An ESPN Chicago writer took a look at the rise of Davis back in May while he was rocketing up the class rankings, but was still not receiving “#1 in the class” praise. Currently, the only listed “schools of interest” are Syracuse, Ohio State, and Kentucky although there are reports that UNC is reportedly interested in Davis (and which school wouldn’t be?). However it appears that the Tar Heels sit in 4th position at the moment while the Davis family analyzes UNC’s current situation.
All of this begs the question as to how someone as talented as Davis could go relatively unnoticed in the over-saturated recruiting landscape. The only comparison player we could think of who rocketed up this quickly this late was Tracy McGrady who went from a relative unknown coming into the summer before his senior year to the top recruit in his class by the time he graduated a little over a decade ago, but that was pre-YouTube and even pre-Google (yes, there was a world before Google). Part of the reason that Davis has shot up the rankings is because of a ridiculous growth spurt during his sophomore and junior years (6-7 inches in 18 months according to Evan Daniels). Still some Illinois recruiting gurus [Ed. Note: We are imagining a Hoop Dreams-like TV segment here.] only had him as the #9 player in the state of Illinois after the high school season ended just a few months ago. There has been some speculation amongst Illinois high school basketball fans that Davis may have been ranked so low coming into the summer because he played in a weak Chicago Public League division that most of the recruiting gurus paid little attention to and until this summer he had skipped the AAU summer circuit. All of this seems perfectly reasonable although somewhat surprising so we are left to wonder just how good Davis actually is. For that we turned to Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports and Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog, who have seen Davis in person and spoken with Davis and people close to him.
“It is shocking to see a player these days fly under the radar until this late in the recruiting game. I love this kid and the reason why I would put him at number one is because I don’t see many–if any–weaknesses in his game. He has size and versatility. He may not be as offensively skilled as Kevin Durant, but has a more complete game with his ability to impact on the defensive end. He can step out and make shots, puts it on the floor, passes it well and can score in the post. Honestly, I am not sure there is any fair comparison – maybe Rasheed Wallace back in the day when he played hard.”
On the late recruitment comparison to McGrady: “Good comparison” [with respect to their late appearance on recruiting radars], but he wasn’t willing to go that Davis would turn out to be the caliber player that McGrady was. He felt that Kyrie Irving would be a better, more modern comparison as Irving was a relative unknown two years ago and now is considered one of the best players to ever come out of New Jersey.
Recruiting: Along with the three schools already mentioned, Zagoria knows “that Roy Williams and UConn coaches are watching [Davis].” As for the possibility that Kentucky might sign him along with Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, it “wouldn’t shock him and could become part of one of the greatest recruiting classes ever.”
Comparison: He can see the Kevin Durant comparison, but Davis isn’t as “smooth or polished” as Durant was. Instead he cited Antonio McDyess (with ACLs) as a good comparison player, but Davis “will need to fill out”.
We don’t want to put too much praise on this rising high school senior, but his size, frame, and skill set remind me of another player who played in Chicago his senior year almost a decade and a half ago: Kevin Garnett. We aren’t saying that Davis will ever achieve the success that Garnett has had, but from what we have seen (in limited highlight clips) it looks like he has the tools to be a similar player although we cannot say anything about his intensity although we doubt many high school players can match the nightly insanity of KG. Below we have a video showing off a little of the skill set that we are talking about with a little of the attitude that we have been wondering about.
One other thing to watch for is the influence of Tai Streets, the CEO of Mean Streets (yes, AAU basketball is a big business). Some of you may remember Streets from his time at Michigan where he was a star receiver on the 1997 National Championship football team, but he also played sparingly as a freshman on the basketball team before committing full-time to football (a wise choice as he ended up getting drafted in the NFL where he spent several years playing for the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions). Given the likely influence of Streets we wouldn’t be surprised to see Davis at least make a visit to Ann Arbor (or be less inclined to join the Buckeyes).