From Chicago to London – young Dream Team player earns Olympic gold

Young, Gifted & Black Series

By Taki S. Raton

Anthony Davis

“Just 19, no player younger has represented the U.S. men’s basketball team in the Olympics,” writes David Haugh’s on August 10, 2012 in Tribune.com. Quoting Anthony Sr., his father, he adds, and “No dad ever has been prouder:

“Besides him being born, this is the greatest day a parent could have, to see him go from being an unknown in Chicago to winning a national title at Kentucky and maybe a gold medal in the same year.”

He is young, he is gifted, and he is Black. And two days following the Haugh’s writing, Anthony Davis would stand among only three players to have been selected to the U.S. “Dream Team” straight out of college since 1992 and go on to become the youngest U.S. basketball gold medalist in history.

The U.S. men’s basketball team won the gold medal with a 107-100 victory over Spain Sunday, August 12, 2012 sealed at the end by a Davis rebound. He only played the fi nal minute of this highly contested game of world leading competitors. But as Aaron Smith notes in his CATSIllustrated. com review, “he was the one with the ball in his hands as time expired.”

“It was in my hands in the national championship game, too,” Davis said after the game in Smith’s “Anthony Davis: Gold Medalist-and most accomplished year for college player ever” article. “I think I just have a thing for having the ball in my hands at the last minute,” he adds.

He finished the Olympics according to Smith with averages of 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in seven games played.

Smith further reveals that the other straight-from-college Olympians were Christian Laettner and Emeka Okafor, but that he would, “put Davis above both in terms of accomplishment in a 12-month span.”

In an August 21, 2012 SportingNewsNBA staff prepared report, “Anthony Davis gained confidence from the Team USA experience,” the young gold medalist talked about his interaction with 11 of the greatest players in the world and how the Olympic experience influenced his approach to basketball:

“Those guys on the Olympic team treated me like I belonged and it boosted my confidence,” he said. “When I got into the game, I felt more confident. They talked to me and told me what to do, so it definitely was great.”

He adds that “A lot of them shared their perspective on the game and the whole team took me under their wings and showed me the ropes.” Davis would be called in to play mostly after Team USA had gained large leads.

Born March 11, 1993, published accounts detail that he played as a power forward for the University of Kentucky (UK) during his first year. His professional career with the National Basketball Association (NBA) began with the New Orleans Hornets when on July 24, 2012, Davis signed a three-year $16 million guaranteed contract with the Hornets as prescribed by the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

While a college freshman, he was a 2012 NCAA Unanimous First Team All-American and was the 2011-12 NCAA Division I men’s basketball season block’s leader. He established Southeastern Conference single-season blocked shots and NCAA Division I freshman blocked shot records. He additionally earned the national Freshman, Defensive Player, and Big Man awards and was named the 2012 National Player of the Year having earned the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, the Associated Press Player of the Year’s Naismith Award, “Sporting News” Player of the Year and the John R. Wooden Award.

Standing 6 feet, 9.25 inches with a 7 feet, 5.5 inch wingspan, he helped lead the University of Kentucky to an undefeated 2011-12 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball season. He was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player when Kentucky won the 2012 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.

According to the UK Men’s Basketball blog, the Official Site of the Kentucky Wildcats, Davis while at UK started all 40 games leading the Wildcats in points (14.2) and rebounds (10.4) and broke the UK’s single-season blocks record with 188 swats during the year, pulled down 16 rebounds with 6 blocks and 5 assist in a win over Kansas; led Kentucky with 18 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Louisville; scored 18 points with a team-high 11 rebounds in a win over Baylor; notched 15 points with 12 rebounds and five assist in win over Iowa State, and scored 15 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Florida.

On February 4, 2012 against South Carolina, Davis established the SEC freshman record with 116 blocks surpassing Shaquille O’Neal’s total set for Louisiana State University.

“It’s been tough coming from Kentucky where I was ‘That Guy.’”said Davis in the Haugh’s report as he reflects on his road from Kentucky to London prior to the gold medal win. “I represent Chicago every time I step on the court. So I’m just glad to be here in London and want to perform when I get in. I’m lucky these guys are teaching me how to become legendary like they are.”

He was virtually unknown locally and nationally after three seasons of play as a high school basketball player for Chicago’s Perspectives Charter School, a member of the Blue Division of the Chicago Public High School League. It was not until his junior year that his participation on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) traveling team made him a possible “Blue Chip” prospect.

Within months, it is reported, he was the top-rated player in the national class of 2011 by Scout.com and ESPN.com and the number two player by Rivals.com. All inclusive of ESPN, Jordan, McDonald’s, Parade, and USA Today, he was named as a high school All-American. The 2011 Jordan Brand Classic honored him with the Co-MVP award.

It has indeed been a well accomplished road from Chicago’s Perspective Charter School to an Olympic gold medal. His efforts have been recognized in a variety of tabloid editions to include the March 19, 2012 and April 9 2012 of Sports Illustrated where he was the cover feature. Davis also made the cover of SLAM Magazine’s on July 2012 and August 2012. But his national and international fame has not left him sky-high clouded and forgetful of home. As recalled by the Haugh’s account, it was important to Davis that his family was present in London and become a part of his success.

When Davis called home and spoke with his mom, Eranier, about being in the Olympics, she shared in the Haugh writing that “We were thrilled. And then we were like, We’ve got to get passports for our two daughters.”

It meant everything to Davis that sisters Lesha and Antoinette, his twin, were alongside his parents that Sunday as he completed this dream year with a Dream Team gold medal, notes the Tribune posting. Quoting Davis, “It would be more special with them here.”

His family, and in particular his sisters, know better than anybody how far Davis has come from obscurity in Chicago to the world stage in London. But more importantly writes Haugh, “Davis still remembers too.”