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Humble Davis comfortable in his own skin, spotlight

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Anthony Davis had nine points and 12 rebounds to help UK advance to the Elite Eight for a matchup with Baylor. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Anthony Davis had nine points and 12 rebounds to help UK advance to the Elite Eight for a matchup with Baylor. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

Before any kid ever thinks about signing with his team at Kentucky, John Calipari has a few words of advice: If you can't handle the attention, if you can't deal with the pressures of a 24/7 basketball spotlight as well as the work ethic he demands of you, don't come to UK.

"This isn't for everyone," Calipari has said verbatim throughout his three seasons at Kentucky.

But for one individual on his team this year, that spotlight has taken on a life of its own. At a school where its basketball players are the city's Mount Rushmore, Anthony Davis has stood alone in his popularity.

He's the Brad Pitt of his sport, the Tiger Woods of college basketball. In terms of fame and recognition, the only player that comes close to his aura at Kentucky, at least recently, is John Wall.

Davis, speaking candidly and openly Friday before his team's matchup with Baylor in the Elite Eight, said he hasn't paid attention to the all the attention he's received this season.

"I try to block it out," Davis said. "A lot of coaches tell me don't worry about that stuff, just go out there and play the game. When you get caught up in all the hype and everything, that's when you start to lose focus, so I just try to tune it out."

But there's no been hiding from or shielding a spotlight that has focused so brightly on him since the moment he sprouted from 6-foot-3 to 6-10 in high school and decided to sign with Kentucky.

On a team full of superstars, Davis has become the face of the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed. His likeness, specifically his unibrow, has become the focus of T-shirt campaigns and fan obsessions.

Dominating the college basketball landscape with a nation-leading 169 blocks - he needs just two more to break Jarvis Varnado's single-season Southeastern Conference record - "Bow to Brow" has become the signature moniker of Davis' supremacy.

As comfortable in his own skin as he is in the paint, Davis said the references to his unibrow, both positively and negatively, haven't bothered him.

"I kind of embrace it," Davis said. "They're just showing support."

Sure, Wall had a drink named after him at a local tavern in Lexington, but Davis' prowess has become so legendary that the Wildcat mascot was altered midseason to feature and support Davis' brow.

A couple of months ago UK developed a poster of him that showcased his freakishly long 7-foot-4 wingspan. The inspiration was the iconic "Wings" poster featuring Michael Jordan, a childhood hero of Davis' and a fellow Chicago native. The poster was so popular that some of the fans who received the free poster at Rupp Arena tried selling it online before UK's compliance department shut down the operation.

"Kentucky fans are crazy," Davis said. "Wherever you go they're there. They really show us a lot of support, especially here. ... In big games, when we really need them, they're always there cheering us on. They never get mad at anything. You can lose a game and they still love you and say great game. They don't turn on you."

Davis, who has already won the Oscar Robertson Trophy and Adolph Rupp Award as the national player of the year, said he never imagined gaining the type of stardom he's achieved in his first season in college. After all, it was just two years ago that Davis was your run-of-the-mill shooting guard in Chicago with but one scholarship offer from Cleveland State.

"I didn't know I was going to have this much success," Davis said. "I thought I'd be alright at college, doing whatever I do to help my team win. But as far as the awards and successes rolling in, I didn't have no plans of being this successful in college. I'm grateful for it. I think about it all the time."

His teammates say the success hasn't changed him. Fellow freshman Marquis Teague called him one of the most humble guys he's ever met, and senior Darius Miller said he's taken it all in stride, just as Wall did two seasons ago when his charm led him to become the face of the next generation of NBA stars.

"He's still a humble person, a great teammate," Miller said. "He doesn't let any of that affect him. He doesn't pay any attention to any of it. I've never been in that position so I don't know how hard it is to deal with it, but he does a great job from what I see."

Sophomore Terrence Jones said the players' genuine admiration and respect for each other hasn't allowed for anyone's head to get too big. Jones said Davis is still just another one of the guys who likes to do "normal stuff" and joke "about everything."

"It makes it easier being on this team with a lot of guys that respect you and like you," Jones said.

Davis' humbleness and gratitude are obvious in his demeanor on and off the court. In the games, he almost never trash talks his opponents. With the media, he's become as savvy and as cooperative as a 10-year NBA veteran. In his spare time, Davis said he's just a "laidback guy" who likes to draw anything and everything in his spare time.

"Whatever pops into my head," Davis said. "I draw a lot of cartoons. Stuff I see on TV. I might pull up a picture on Google sometimes. People always asking me to draw tattoos for them."

Because the team cares too much about winning, Jones said, jealousy isn't an issue with Davis' fame.

"We just like each other too much for any of that," Jones said. "We're proud of each other's success. We're happy for another. That should be every team."

The reality of it, though, is most guys would die to have half the attention and admiration Davis has garnered this season. Davis credited his teammates with keeping him level headed.

"My teammates do a great job of supporting me," Davis said. "They support each other and everyone else. I think that's what kind of makes us unique. No one is jealous of another person. I think it's very rare."

Coach Cal has long called it a difficult job to take the best players in the country and get them to play together, so consider it satisfying to him when he hears his players describe the "brother's keeper" characteristics that he's preached since his first day on the job.

"The season's a long season, and these guys have figured out that if I sacrifice for my teammate, if I care about my team more than myself, it seems like I benefit the most," Calipari said. "I think that's every guy here."

Sure, Davis is the face of the most recognizable program in college basketball, but six players average in double figures on a team that's one game away from its second straight Final Four.

"They like each other," Coach Cal said. "They respect each other. They cheer for each other. And I really I really believe they want individuals to play well. They want our team to play well, but they want each other to play well."

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coach cal is right this isnt for everyone

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