Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Bring on John Henson and North Carolina.
That’s what Anthony Davis said after nearly pulling off only the second triple-double in Kentucky history as the No. 1 Wildcats routed St. John’s 81-59 in the Big East/SEC Challenge at Rupp Arena.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” the 6-foot-10 Davis said after notching 15 points, 15 rebounds and 8 blocks. “Henson plays just like me. He’s a great shot-blocker and I just can’t wait to go against him Saturday.”
Davis, remember, considered attending North Carolina in the summer before his senior year of high school, but ultimately eliminated the Tar Heels from consideration.
Now, the highly anticipated North Carolina-Kentucky game will feature as many as 10 eventual first-round NBA Draft picks, as well as a couple second-rounders, one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv.
But none is more intriguing than the 6-10 Davis, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the Draft.
With his super-long arms, Davis caused havoc all over the court, reaching in for deflections and steals on the perimeter, blocking shots in the paint and flushing alley-oop dunks in transition.
“He’s probably the best shot-blocker in the country,” said the NBA scout.
“He’s a great shot-blocker, not only because of the length of his arms but he understands angles defensively. He and Henson have the longest arms. They have the longest arms in college basketball.”
Davis entered averaging 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 blocks, while the 6-11 Henson is averaging 14. 7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
On one play against the Johnnies, Davis blocked Nurideen Lindsey’s shot on one end, leaving Lindsey prone on the floor as Davis raced downcourt and finished with an alley oop dunk on the other end.
“It’s like shooting over a tower,” Lindsey said. “I have watched him play a lot this season, but I didn’t know he was as long as he is and as athletic as he is until he caught a couple of the dunks and couple of the lob plays. He was blocking shots all over the place. It was tough.”
Added St. John’s acting coach Mike Dunlap: “He’s got really long arms and he’s very good at it. We wish we had one of those.”
Davis was a 6-foot-2 guard a couple of years ago, before he underwent a major growth spurt in high school and turned into the shot-blocking monster he is now.
He said it was his experience getting his own shot blocked as a guard that motivated him to want to reject other people’s shot attempts.
“That was kind of what has driven me to become a shot-blocker,” he said, adding that he had seven or eight triple-doubles with blocks in high schools. “People in there block my shot and I started screaming, ‘Ooh.’ And I’m like, ‘Alright…so I try to do the same thing.'”
Kentucky coach John Calipari has compared Davis to Marcus Camby.
“The great shot-blockers wait until you release it and then they go after the ball,” said Calipari, whose team notched a school-record 18 blocks. “So a ball fake doesn’t bother them because they are not leaving, anyway. So you can ball fake six times. Until you start to release the ball when it’s out of your hand, a shot-blocker will go after it. That’s what he does.”
Against North Carolina, Davis will not only be matched against Henson and Tyler Zeller down low, but he will be asked to alter or block shots of tremendous penetrators like Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall.
Said Davis: “I’m looking forward to it Saturday.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.