Senior Writer

Fair or not, Kentucky freshman Davis must face 'scandal'


I remember being in Austin during the fall of 2006 and going to lunch at a local seafood joint with Kevin Durant. The place wasn't packed, but it was busy.

And even though we sat there for around two hours, not one time did anybody walk over and ask Durant whether he was the heralded recruit who would, months later, become the star of college basketball and, years later, an NBA scoring champion.

Anthony Davis (10) is the latest in a long line of elite Kentucky recruits. (Getty Images)  
Anthony Davis (10) is the latest in a long line of elite Kentucky recruits. (Getty Images)  
Folks just didn't seem to care.

Durant still had yet to play a game.

He mostly walked around in total anonymity.

Which brings me to Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis -- another 6-foot-10 heralded recruit who is just four months away from becoming one of the stars (if not the star) of college basketball. Anonymity? Davis enjoys no such thing.

"Just because of my height people always stop me [in Lexington]," Davis said last week between workouts at the LeBron James Skill Academy. "They say, 'Where do you play? I hope you play for Kentucky.' And I'm like, 'Yeah.' And then they're like, 'Are you Anthony Davis?'

"We really can't walk anywhere without people noticing us."

Davis is the latest in a long line of elite prospects to sign with the school that employs John Calipari, and the Chicago native could become the UK coach's third No. 1 overall pick in five years if things go as projects.

What makes him most interesting though -- besides the growth spurt in the summer of 2009 that transformed him from a 6-3 guard into a 6-10 forward -- is that Davis is the only Calipari recruit to ever be publicly tied by a mainstream media outlet to a recruiting scandal before enrolling. That might surprise some given Calipari's reputation among most college basketball fans. But the truth is that the NCAA never has charged Calipari or any of his programs with a major recruiting violation, and no major website or newspaper had ever alleged serious cheating until the Chicago Sun-Times staff writer Michael O'Brien reported last August that Davis' father had negotiated a deal worth $200,000 to send his son to Kentucky.

With whom did Davis' father negotiate this alleged deal?

O'Brien never went that far.

His report, even if true, was thin.

But that didn't stop the story from making national headlines.

"I really didn't find out until and I went downstairs for dinner at the Nike Global [Challenge in Oregon last August]," Davis said. "[The other players] were like, 'You're all over [television]. They said you took money.' I instantly called my Dad ... and he said, 'I'll handle it. Don't worry about it.' And that was it. I let him handle it. I didn't worry about it anymore."

There were some who believed the allegations might make Davis hesitate to subsequently sign with Kentucky because doing so would almost certainly ensure a thorough questioning from the NCAA. But Davis said he never wavered on his college choice.

"I knew the truth," he said. "I knew I didn't take anything and I knew my family didn't take anything. So I really wasn't worried about it."

Davis is now on campus at UK and preparing to help Calipari try to win his first national championship and -- it should be noted -- nothing new as it pertains to that Sun-Times story has been reported since last August. That's probably a good sign for UK.

But it'll be interesting to see as the season draws closer, then starts, then progresses, if Davis can successfully distance himself from the so-called scandal.

He's going to be phenomenal on the court, no question. But whether his stickback dunks and blocked shots in college are forever overshadowed by allegations of impropriety remains undetermined, proof being how many of the questions Davis faced in Ohio last week were about exactly that, fair or not.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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