By Joe Henricksen
No, Anthony Davis, the former Perspectives star and Kentucky national champ, is not the greatest player to ever come out of Illinois (at least not yet, but it might not be so crazy in 10 or 12 years).
Is he even the best high school player in state history? No. Not even close. He was a non-factor, for the most part, through three seasons (he did have a big junior year stat-wise playing against no one). His Chicago Perspectives team was bad and even his superpower senior talents couldn't change that.
So what is Davis? The greatest basketball PROSPECT to ever come out of Illinois.
There is no better way to judge a prospect than this: Davis was the consensus No. 1 ranked player coming out of high school following his senior year and, one year later, is the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. While earning that No. 1 title has a little something to do with past accomplishments and production, most of it has to do with projecting a prospect at the next level.
Davis is now in the family of greatest overnight stars in the history of this planet. A bit dramatic? No, not really. Davis did not follow the typical celebrity career arc -- or even the route many basketball stars have taken. Think about Dwyane Wade, whose celebrity career arc was basically the exact opposite of Anthony Davis from the time he graduated high school to where he is today.
Davis is in a select group. He's in that group with Kate Winslet (after "Titanic"), Robert Goulet (after starring in "Camelot"). Barack Obama, Jeremy Lin, a few of those "American Idol" winners, the 1990s dot-com mavens and the homelessman with a golden voice, Ted Williams, who became an overnight celebrity and was quickly doing voiceovers for Kraft, MSNBC and the Cleveland Cavaliers. OK, a little far-fetched and far-reaching list, but you get the point.
Remember, Davis' high school career was hardly a blip on the radar in a star-gazing city like Chicago. Aside from his team not winning or putting together any real success in the Public League or in state tournament play, Davis was rarely seen or watched by the average fan (or even passionate fan). In 25 years when people are sitting around the gym talking about the first time they saw the great Anthony Davis, there will be few talking about his high school days. Most of his exploits on the court were done in camps and the AAU circuit. He didn't win Mr. Basketball or any state or Chicago area player of the year honors.
What we're talking about here is simply Davis as a prospect, and one that has blossomed nearly overnight -- from an unwatched junior in high school to the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in a matter of a little over two years. Unheard of and absolutely incredible.
Again, we're talking prospect -- the No. 1 player in the country as a senior in high school and the No. 1 NBA Draft pick 12 months later certainly quantifies that. What better way to judge a prospect than that? And in between he's done this:
• Won a NCAA National Championship
• Named NCAA National Player of the Year
• Named NCAA Freshman of the Year
• Named NCAA Defensive Player of the Year
• Sports Illustrated Cover Boy
• NBA No. 1 Draft Pick
Has there ever been anyone like Anthony Davis to come out of Chicago. I mean, really. Ever? The greatest basketball prodigy to ever come out of Chicago played at PERSPECTIVES????
Try comparing those feats just mentioned to any past highly-acclaimed products to ever come out of Illinois. Mark Aguirre, the No. 1 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft? No. Derrick Rose? No. Kevin Garnett? No. Eddy Curry? Shaun Livingston? Darius Miles? All NBA Lottery Picks out of high school with superlatives thrown their way but ... no, no and no.
Davis will go down as the greatest basketball PROSPECT to ever come out of Illinois. Now, will he live up to being the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and reach the heights Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas and Kevin Garnett (yes, we're counting him even after spending just one year in the city at Farragut) have reached? I can't wait to watch and see where he goes from here.
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