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Davis quickly grasping the concept of the 'easy play'

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Anthony Davis became the third UK freshman to post at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in his regular season debut. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Anthony Davis became the third UK freshman to post at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in his regular season debut. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the preseason, John Calipari has preached the importance of making the "easy play" to his team. Kentucky has a roster full of players capable of doing it all and dominating on their own, but Calipari knows the Wildcats will maximize their potential only by sharing the load and picking their spots.

Perhaps no Cat has more of an adjustment to make in that regard than freshman forward Anthony Davis. He was by far the best player on his high school team and was often the primary ball handler in spite of his 6-foot-10 frame.

Even at the college level, Davis would likely score fairly consistently by bringing the ball down the floor himself, beating his man off the dribble and scoring at the rim. But with all the talent around him, that's not the most effective way for the Cats to do business.

"It's been kind of hard, because in high school I did so much," Davis said. "Now, since I have people who can dribble the ball, people who can shoot and rebound, it makes my job a lot easier."

Davis reported forgetting he was no longer his team's point guard on a few occasions in early-summer pick-up games, but those days are long gone. Instead, Davis has found a home around the basket. Taking advantage of his length and athleticism, Davis has transformed into a shot-blocking and lob-finishing terror, paving the way for a 23-point, 10-rebound, five-block effort in UK's season-opening 108-58 victory over Marist.

Senior Darius Miller has heard the "easy play" refrain from Calipari plenty of times in his three years playing for him, but isn't sure he's seen a newcomer take the command to heart quite like Davis has.

"He does what Coach Cal asks him to do," Miller said. "He doesn't try to do much than that and it's really helped his game out. He's really successful in what Coach Cal's tells him to do and it's helping the team."

Miller took full advantage of Davis' precocious understanding in Friday's blowout win, as four of his five assists came on alley-oops to the big man.

"It makes it a lot easier for us," Miller said. "It opens up a lot. Every time his man helps out we just throw it to the rim and he dunks it."

Oftentimes, Davis' finishes came on possessions when the Wildcats were otherwise stymied, which demoralized a Marist team that thought it had played sound defense.

"Think about it," Calipari said, "you play great defense and the guy is falling out of bounds and throws it at the rim and the guy dunks it and smashes it and the whole crowd goes nuts. You play zone, he's hanging around the rim, so you're doing a great job in zone, and all of a sudden your point guard throws it at the rim and he dunks it. It takes the wind out of your sails."

Davis, with his relatively slight frame, doesn't have a post-up game to speak of at this point in his career, but his ability to finish at the rim makes up for that. Besides, UK has plenty of players able to score in the post.

"Well, he doesn't have that game," Calipari said. "That's not his game. But Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) does, Terrence (Jones) does, Kyle Wiltjer does. We have enough post guys."

On the defensive end, blocking shots is most certainly his game. Marist, though, managed to successfully avoid his long reach in the first half as he did not tally a single swat. At halftime though, Davis was determined to change that around.

"After a while, I told my team to make them alter their shot and I'll come over and block it," Davis said.

Five second-half blocks later, the Red Foxes were likely ready to rid themselves of the man Calipari has dubbed "spider-man".

Calipari will now be looking for the way Davis has embraced the "easy play" to rub off on his teammates as UK heads into a three-game East Coast trip during which the Cats will face Kansas, Penn State and either South Florida or Old Dominion.

"Will you play the way you've played, or will you revert?" Calipari said. "Will guys play for numbers or play for us? I really think we'll be fine."

Calipari was talking most about point guard Marquis Teague, who struggled a bit out of the gate after running the team very well in UK's two exhibitions. Teague coped well with the bright lights of Rupp Arena when the games didn't count, but things changed with the start of the regular season.

"It's real and it's television and it's first time in this environment, my first game out of the gate, and he lost his mind a little bit," Calipari said.

Calipari, though, has been in this position with a freshman point guard and knew what message to deliver to his latest young signal caller.

" 'I've coached point guards before, and the ones that listen to me do fine,' " Calipari said. " 'So just listen to what I'm saying and stop arguing with me and just do what I'm asking you to do.'

"He's a good kid. We've got players that are good kids, now we've just got to make sure they understand the fire and the intensity they've got to play with."

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