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November 22, 2011It didn't take Anthony Davis long to figure out what he was in for physically at the college level.
The 6-foot-10 Kentucky freshman had bulked up in the offseason to a still-wiry 220 pounds in the hopes of preparing for a rigorous run through college basketball. But he'd barely tried on his practice jersey before he learned how long a way he had left to go.
"Actually our first practice, when we played 5-on-5, me guarding Terrence (Jones)," Davis said Tuesday. "He would just go straight to the post every time, trying to back me in or attack the basket or whatever. That's when I was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's going to be a long season.'" Four games into it, physical play still is a relatively new concept for Davis.
When the Wildcats (4-0) host Radford (3-3) Wednesday night at Rupp Arena, Davis will be the tallest player on either roster, and he'll outweigh every Highlander by at least five pounds.
That doesn't mean he'll be a physical presence. That's a part of the game Davis still is feeling out.
"He's got to bend," UK coach John Calipari said. "It's not hard to bend over and bend those knees. If you're standing straight up and down you have no leverage. Most guys are not strong from the waist up, they're strong from the waist down. That's where they get their leverage. If you're standing straight up and down you have no strength and then you have no balance and you look like you're flopping around out there."
Not that Davis is struggling. The freshman from Chicago is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and shooting 72.4 percent from the floor. He's averaging 4.5 blocks per game and - according to a formula from Basketball-Reference.com - he's blocking 17 percent of opponents' total two-point field-goal attempts when he's on the floor.
But Davis still is searching for a role in the UK offense beyond throwing down lob dunks.
"I'm working on my post-up game, but Coach Cal's been telling me to face up instead of having my back to the basket," Davis said. "And then we'll work on that as the season goes along. But he tells me when I get the ball in the post to either go over my left shoulder or post up."
Fourteen of Davis' 21 field goals this season are dunks - many off lob passes from teammates - and part of the reason he's been limited, Calipari said, is Davis' early aversion to physical play.
Davis called Sunday's hard-fought win against Old Dominion "a very good eye-opener" to the physical nature of college basketball.
Until he adjusts to it, tweaking the offensive game plan won't mean much.
"He's just got to get tougher right now," Calipari said. "Until he does that, it doesn't matter what we try to do you're just throwing balls at the rim, whether they're dunks or whatever. You've got to bend over and play an aggressive game."
That's a 180-degree turn for Davis, who grew seven inches in high school and spent most of his prep career - even after the growth spurt - playing on the perimeter.
"It's kind of new," Davis said. "I really didn't have to do that (in high school). I was really more of a point guard, bringing the ball up, distributing and everything. But I really never had to play in the post in high school."
So Davis said he's "still adapting" to the physicality of college basketball, and when asked, he admitted he "most definitely" thinks about his need to speed up that process with a game against North Carolina looming next week.
"I'm getting extra work in after practice, going hard in practice," Davis said. "It's going to be a physical game. John Henson and (Tyler) Zeller are great players and I've just got to get ready for that game."
He has three more games to prepare, starting with Radford tonight.
And though it's taking time for Davis to settle in to low-block banging, Calipari isn't concerned. After a series of questions Tuesday about Davis' struggles against physical play, Calipari said Davis is "doing great," and projects as "the No. 1 pick in the (NBA) draft," then said he wouldn't answer any more questions about Davis' toughness.
"He's got to be stronger," Calipari said. "He's got to play lower. He's getting opportunities and he's not making free throws but he's still fine."