Before Anthony Davis was a star with the Lakers, he was was Kentucky’s first Naismith Player of the Year

CBS Sports is looking back at several college basketball stars of the past and their Citizen Naismith Player of the Year seasons. This edition of the series, sponsored by Citizen, features Kentucky star Anthony and his spectacular 2011-2012 season.

Before Anthony Davis was a force for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was a star in college. In 2012 he became the first player in Kentucky basketball’s proud history to win the Citizen Naismith Trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding player in college basketball. Davis, though he played just one season, was dominant as a power forward. In his first and only season at the collegiate level, he led the sport in blocks per game. His 186 blocks remains the single season block record among freshmen at the NCAA Division I level.

Davis got better as the 2011-12 season progressed, too — and so did UK. When the calendar turned to 2012, he averaged a whopping 4.7 blocks per game and 15.3 points per game. Kentucky in that span lost only once, going 25-1 en route to an eventual NCAA Championship to cap a remarkable 38-2 season.

Davis, for his part, saw his season culminate with an exclamation point. In March Madness, he twice recorded six-block performances — including in the title game and in the Sweet 16 — and he opened up UK’s run of six straight wins in the Tournament with a 16 point, 12 rebound and 7 block showing. His 29 blocks ranks second all-time among players in the NCAA Tournament behind only Jeff Withey, whom he outdueled in the title game on that fateful evening of April 2, 2012.

The New Orleans Pelicans made Davis, who affectionately referred to himself as The Brow, the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NBA Draft months later. Davis, a seven-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive team performer, was traded to the Lakers before the 2019-20 season. 

Davis will be remembered by many things, but his blossoming career and case to be considered among the most talented power forwards of all time began in earnest at Kentucky when he earned Naismith Player of the Year honors. Now, he’s on track to be one of the most well-known former award winners and among the greats to ever play the college game.

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