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USBWA tabs Davis as National Player of the Year

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Anthony Davis becomes the first Wildcat to be named National Player of the Year by the USBWA. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Anthony Davis becomes the first Wildcat to be named National Player of the Year by the USBWA. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In less than one season, Anthony Davis has made an indelible mark on Kentucky basketball.

On Monday, he entered even more rarefied air.

The star freshman became the first player in UK history to earn college basketball's oldest player of the year award when he was named the winner of the 2012 Oscar Robertson Trophy by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Davis joins John Wall, who won the Adolph Rupp Trophy in 2009-10, as the only Wildcat to be honored with one of the six major player of the year awards.

Davis came to Lexington as the consensus top overall player in the class of 2011, and has only exceeded the high expectations that accompanied his arrival. Helping Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed and, most recently, a berth in the Sweet 16, Davis leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.3 points per game), rebounding (10.1 per game), blocks (4.6 per game), steals (48) and minutes played (31.9 per game).

His scoring is behind the pace of most historical player of the year winners, but his overall impact on both ends of the floor has been lauded by nearly every one of UK's opponents this season. His 166 blocks lead the nation and are a single-season school record. He is closing in on the Southeastern Conference record for blocks in a season and anchors a Kentucky defense that is just three swats shy of the all-time NCAA team record of 315 set by Connecticut in 2003-04.

"Anthony Davis made an immediate and dramatic impact on college basketball," said USBWA President Lenox Rawlings of the Winston-Salem Journal. "He has many skills, most obvious among them his ability to block and alter shots. Davis' dominance inside solidified Kentucky as a national title contender and brought Bill Russell back into the dialogue, shining light on the vital half of the game that people often ignore."

With Davis and his 7-foot-4 wingspan terrorizing opponents, UK  leads the nation in both effective field goal defense (41.7 percent) and 2-point field goal defense (39.3 percent). Exceptionally, Davis has exerted his defensive impact while fouling rarely. Only once has Davis fouled out this season and he has committed an average of just 1.9 fouls per game, second-fewest among Wildcats playing at least 15 minutes per game.

Offensively, Davis has improved markedly throughout the season, evolving from a player that scored primarily on put-backs and alley-oops to UK's top offensive option. He averaged 15.9 points in regular-season SEC play and has scored double figures in all but one of his last 15 games.

His points have come in an ever-expanding variety of ways, ranging from hook shots with both hands, drives to the basket and even 3-pointers. Even with his growing offensive workload, Davis still ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage at 63.6.

Davis becomes just the second player in SEC history to win the award named after Oscar Robertson. Pete Maravich of LSU won it in back-to-back seasons in 1968-69 and 1969-70. He is also just the second freshman to win the award, joining Kevin Durant of Texas in 2006-07, a player Davis has professed to admire and model his game after.

The USBWA's National Player of the Year award is oldest of the six major player of the year awards, as it was first given to Robertson after the 1958-59 season. Davis will receive the trophy, as well as the Wayman Tisdale Award, the USBWA's freshman of the  year award at the annual College Basketball Awards Breakfast on Friday, March 30 at 8 a.m. at the New Orleans Marriott in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Final Four.

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