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Brow power: Englewood native grows into NBA

November 27, 2012|By Bryan Crawford | For RedEye

Anthony Davis' basketball story is about as unlikely as they come. Two years ago, playing in the NBA was just a dream for the Englewood native who outgrew his clothes and his bed nearly as fast as he rose to hoops superstardom.

A 6-foot-2 guard who sprouts into an athletic, 6-10 shot blocker is the equivalent of hitting the genetic lottery in basketball. Especially when you consider the way Davis parlayed it into becoming the top player in his high school class, a McDonald's All-American, a national championship winner at Kentucky, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and the youngest player in U.S. Olympic basketball history to win a gold medal.

Not surprising, the 19-year-old Davis is enjoying every minute.

"Man, it's been a blast going up against some of your idols," Davis said of playing in the NBA while averaging 16 points and eight rebounds this season for New Orleans. "Guys that you always looked up to, and now you're playing against them on the court. It's been a good experience."

Much of that experience came with Team USA as Davis was the youngest player on a squad full of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. Learning from them was an invaluable experience and boosted Davis' confidence going into his rookie season.

"I had a chance to play in the Olympics with a lot of superstars like LeBron [James], Kobe [Bryant], Kevin [Durant], Carmelo [Anthony], guys like that. So I'm not as in shock as some other rookies are," he said. "But it's definitely fun getting to go up against those guys, guys that you'd play with on '[NBA] 2K' or watching them on TV or supporting them by being a fan, but now it's a different story because you're trying to beat them."

New Orleans coach Monty Williams said he's pleased with the rookie's competitiveness and progress thus far. However, he added it will be awhile before Davis will truly feel comfortable in the NBA.

"He's still wide-eyed a little bit, but I think he's a lot more calm now than he was in the beginning," Williams said. "But I think it takes time. I think he's got to play at least 30 to 35 games and go through the league a little bit, but then we'll see a better A.D."

If his trademark unibrow—which really is trademarked—is his calling card off the court, thunderous blocked shots are his signature on it.

So what's his secret?

"I was fortunate to not lose my coordination when I grew so fast, so that really helps," Davis said. "But there's no secret to it. Some guys lose their coordination [when they grow]; I didn't, so it was an easier transition for me."

A student of the game, Davis looks at two players for shot-blocking guidance.

"I like [Oklahoma City's Serge] Ibaka. He's probably one of the best shot blockers in the NBA right now. Old school? Man, it's a couple of them. Wilt, he's definitely up there. He's No. 1. Bill Russell is up there, too. But Ibaka and Wilt, those are my two favorites."

Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.

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