Davis, Haith win AP player, coach awards
AP Basketball Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Anthony Davis was busier than any of the other players in the Final Four.
The Kentucky freshman had to make the circuit of Player of the Year presentations Friday, not that he was complaining.
“There were a lot of awards yesterday and today,” Davis said with a big smile. “It’s a great feeling, especially as a freshman. I’ve been working hard and now it’s rewarding.”
Davis became the first Kentucky player and second freshman to be selected The Associated Press’ Player of the Year. He picked up his latest trophy, along with Coach of the Year Frank Haith of Missouri.
It was Davis’ second ceremony of the day, and he had to make a quick exit to get to practice, part of the preparations for the national semifinal matchup against Louisville on Saturday.
“This is great to be here and hopefully we can win the national championship and accomplish our goal,” he said. “Even if we come up short we still had a great season.”
The 6-foot-10 Davis sure did.
He averaged 14.3 points – on a team with six double-figure scorers – 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent from the field. His block total is a school record and third-best ever for a freshman. He was the Southeastern Conference’s Player, Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year.
“My expectations were nothing like this; I wasn’t planning on any awards,” he said of how he approached his first – and what many project will be his only – season in college basketball. “I have to thank my teammates for those lob passes for easy baskets and for them getting beat off the dribble for all those blocked shots. Without them there are no awards.”
No Kentucky player had won the award which started in 1961, and the only other freshman to win it was Kevin Durant of Texas in 2007.
“I’m surprised because you’ve had a lot of great players from Kentucky,” Davis said. “Hopefully I’m starting something, and a lot of Kentucky players will win this award.”
Davis received 43 votes from the 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Balloting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Thomas Robinson of Kansas was second with 20 votes, and Draymond Green of Michigan State received the other two votes.
Jimmer Fredette of BYU won the award last season.
Haith’s first season at Missouri got off to a rough start and ended with a second-round thud in the NCAA tournament. In between his unpopular selection to replace Mike Anderson at Missouri and the Tigers’ stunning loss to 15th-seeded Norfolk State, things went very well.
Missouri won 30 games and the Big 12 tournament and was ranked in the AP poll the entire season, reaching second for one week and was third in the final poll.
Haith received 21 votes from the media panel, while John Calipari of Kentucky and Tom Izzo of Michigan State tied for second with 10 votes each. The voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Unlike Davis, Haith didn’t have a practice to rush to Friday.
“It’s good to see your peers at something like the Final Four, but the disappointment of your season being over is still there,” Haith said. “Still, I can’t tell you how honored and humbled I am with all the recognition.”
Haith left Miami after seven seasons to take over the program at Missouri.
“My landing in Columbia wasn’t greeted with a lot of yeas and congratulations, but I wasn’t disappointed, rather encouraged because that showed me passion. And I wanted that, because that kind of passion means you have a chance to be successful,” he said.
Haith’s coaching style was very different from Anderson’s uptempo pressure way and that meant change, something a lot of college players don’t take to easily.
“Mike Anderson left me some pretty good players,” Haith said. “They bought into change, and that’s not always easy when you have a system in place they want. I give the players a lot of credit for buying in. When the players buy in you have a chance to be successful.”
Haith, who joined Norm Stewart in 1994 as the only Missouri coaches to win the award, said it was early in the season when he knew the players had bought in.
“We were in Kansas City for the CBE Classic, and we beat Cal and Notre Dame,” Haith said. “We changed things, and I think you have to have success to make change. We saw success, and those guys started to buy in. And it was all because of the leadership on the team.”
Haith was hired at Missouri with the knowledge the program he was leaving was under NCAA investigation for possible rules violations.
“I think we, the Mizzou Nation and my family, all will be happy when it’s all over with, but we can’t control the NCAA and the time frame in which they work,” he said.
He was asked if he was confident the investigation would come up empty.
“Absolutely,” he said.