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Comparing Anthony Davis of Kentucky to Other Great Freshman Centers in College Basketball History

Most popular question over the weekend: After Davis scored 18 points, took 14 rebounds and blocked five shots in Kentucky’s Final 4 win over Louisville, everyone wanted to try and project what Davis will be like in the NBA. Because of his lithe frame and rangy arms, Marcus Camby has been the most frequent comparison. But as you can see below, Davis had a freshman year that has rivaled some of the best centers in the college game over the last 30 years. It’s important to note Duncan and Shaq entered college at 17.

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: 14.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 4.6 blocks, 63.9 % FGs, 31.9 minutes per game [age 19]
Marcus Camby, Massachusetts: 10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.6 blocks, 49 % FGs, 21.9 minutes per game [age 19]
Tim Duncan, Wake Forest: 9.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.8 blocks, 54.5 % FGs, 30.2 minutes per game [age 17]
Shaq, LSU: 13.9 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.5 blocks, 55.6 FGs, 28.2 minutes per game [age 17]
Akeem Olajuwon, Houston: 8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 blocks, 60.3 % FGs, 18.2 minutes per game [age 19]
Patrick Ewing, Georgetown: 12.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.2 blocks, 63.1 % FGs, 28.8 minutes per game [age 19]

Camby: As you can see, Davis was much more ready as a freshman. But Camby had a strong career at UMass, and is near the end of a nice 15-year NBA career. But isn’t in the same class as the other guys on this list. He led the league in blocks four times, but was injury-prone.

Duncan: Only took six shots a game as a 17-year-old freshman, then took 11 per game as a sophomore, and his scoring, rebounding, and block numbers all went up. Easily could have come out after his sophomore year. Stayed four years and went into the NBA ready: He averaged 21.1 ppg as a rookie, and averaged a double-double for the next 13 seasons. Probably will go down as the greatest power forward in NBA history.

Shaq: Left LSU after three years, and at the age of 21 he took the NBA by storm (think Anthony Davis, plus two inches and 100 pounds) – 23.4 points, 13.9 rpg, 3.5 blocks. Shaq averaged over 23 ppg for 11 straight seasons. I’m sure some will disagree, but I’ve got him as the best modern-era (1980s and beyond) NBA center, followed by Olajuwon, Jabbar and Ewing. Dwight Howard would be 5th on that list.

Olajuwon: Later added an H to his first name. Improved big-time as a sophomore (13-11-5) and then was a monster as a junior (16-13-5.5 and 67 percent shooting). Continued to improve as a pro and won two titles with the Rockets (the years Jordan played baseball). Averaged 20+ ppg for 13 straight years as an NBA player. Here’s the big different between Dream and Davis – Olajuwon (who didn’t grow up playing AAU ball) entered the NBA at 22 and had a polished offensive game. His rookie stats: 20.6 ppg, 11.9 rpg. No way Davis puts up those points as a rookie.

Ewing: Like Duncan, Ewing could have left after a stellar sophomore year (17-10). He stayed all four years, went to three title games, won one. Like everyone else on this list, Ewing came into the league with an offensive game, and averaged 20 ppg as a rookie. Like Olajuwon, Ewing averaged 20+ ppg for 13 straight years.

Dwight Howard bypassed college altogether, and as a raw 19-year-old rookie, put up 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s a great rebounder (led the league four of the last five years) but not the shot-blocker of the other centers on this list, and not as offensively talented, either. Did not going to college and working on his post game hinder his offensive development? He’s only 26.

The development of Davis at the offensive end is key. Nobody but Davis can answer this – does he have the Kobe/Jordan desire to be the best? Will the domination as a freshman (assuming they win the title) go to his head, or will he continue to improve?

Previously: The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats Are Good, But Not One of the Best College Basketball Teams in the Last 25 Years
Previously: 2012 NBA Mock Draft 2.0, with Rising Royce White and Falling Perry Jones
Previously: Every Dunk by Kentucky Against Louisville in the Final 4

 

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