CHICAGO -- Anthony Davis was almost an unknown in the basketball world as recently as seven months ago.
The only reason Davis wasn’t completely off the map was because there was one college basketball coach who had recognized the 6-foot-10 forward as a talent. While Davis flew under the radar to everyone else because he attended a school of only a few hundred students and didn’t play club basketball, Cleveland State coach Gary Waters had caught of wind of Davis and went as far as offering a scholarship.
On Wednesday as 200-plus Perspectives’ students chanted Davis’ name while he signed his letter of intent to play at Kentucky, Davis reflected back on what had been an unforgettable seven months and what might have been if he hadn’t been discovered.
Most likely, Wednesday, the first day of college basketball's early signing period, would have been a monument day at Cleveland State if the events didn’t play out as they did.
“I was going to go there,” said Davis, who is ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2011 by ESPN. “Playing AAU really helped me a lot. If I hadn’t played AAU, I wouldn’t be here today. There’s a lot of people who doubted me, a lot of critics. I used that as motivation. [They said,] ‘I wasn’t going to go high D-I. I was going to go mid-major.’”
With what began with a decision to give club basketball a try as a way to gain more exposure, Davis and his versatile play became the talk of the hoops community nearly overnight. He skyrocketed up the national rankings, and nearly every coach in the country was falling over each other offering him a scholarship.
It was a series of events that rarely occurs in basketball recruiting in this day and age.
“I think it’s a great story,” ESPN Recruiting’s Reggie Rankin said. “It’s one of those you’re glad to see a happy ending to. Here’s a kid who is going from being a relatively unknown player in the spring time to going to play for the winningest program in the country. That’s pretty extreme.”
Davis’ mother Erainer Davis said the same.
“I never would have thought that things like this would have happened,” she said. “I knew he was good. I thought he was pretty good at basketball. We told him your turn will come around. Then all of sudden he went to play AAU with MeanStreets, and it blew up out of nowhere.”
Davis chose Kentucky over DePaul, Ohio State and Syracuse in August because he felt the Wildcats and their coach John Calipari gave him the best opportunity to win a national championship and play in the NBA.
“We all think we’re going to win a national championship, and I think that’s going to happen as long as the four of us are there,” Davis said. “That’s one of our biggest goals, and something we need to accomplish. If our team this year wins, that’ll be banner No. 8, and we’re going to try and get No. 9. If they don’t win, I guess we’re going to get banner No. 8.
“Whatever Kentucky needs me to do and coach Calipari needs me to do to win a national championship, I’m going to do.”
Davis’ recruitment to Kentucky did involve some controversy. In August, the Chicago Sun-Times reported someone close to the Kentucky program had agreed to pay $200,000 to secure Davis’ commitment, and that Davis' father, Anthony Davis Sr., had asked three other schools for $125,000-$150,000.
Kentucky and the Davis family have denied the allegations all along and continued to do so on Wednesday.
“I have no idea [why they wrote that,]” Davis Sr. said. “Maybe there were schools jealous of coach Calipari and Anthony picking Kentucky. That’s my assumption. I’m not sure. I truly believe one of the other schools he didn’t pick was upset.
“It wasn’t difficult. We knew what they wrote wasn’t true. Anthony was a little upset because he’s been getting all the good, and he finally got a little bit of the bad. I had a talk with him and explained to him, ‘That you know, you’re going to get a lot of good, you’re going to get a lot of bad, but it’s how you take it and run with it.’ So when the story came out, he still chose Kentucky. We’re happy as a family.”
Davis Sr. said they do still plan on suing the Sun-Times, and his attorney was still working through the situation.