Robinson, Davis emerge as top POY candidates
Bill Self remembers having arguments with his own kids over who
was better, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, and the Kansas coach
always went with the pride of French Lick.
The reason was simple: The Lakers simply oozed talent, so
Johnson didn’t receive the sole attention of opposing defenses.
Bird was the key to the Celtics winning or losing.
That’s why Self also goes with Thomas Robinson, the third-ranked
Jayhawks’ star forward, when the debate turns to national player of
the year. Anthony Davis has had a sublime season for top-ranked
Kentucky, but he’s surrounded by a cast of characters capable of 20
points a night.
Without Robinson, the Jayhawks could be sitting on the NCAA
”Anthony impacts the game in a variety of ways, in some ways
more than Thomas does, but his supporting cast is so strong,” Self
said. ”I really believe Thomas has had the best year.”
Naturally, the Wildcats’ supporting cast is a big reason John
Calipari would vote for Davis.
”At the end of the year, he’s going to end up taking 200 shots
less than all those guys that they’re considering – 200 shots less
– yet probably has as big an impact on any of these games,” the
Kentucky coach said. ”What he’s done defensively for us, what he’s
done offensively for us – and he’s done it in a way where he’s not
selfish in any way.”
Calipari is right that Davis will end up taking far fewer shots
than most superstars. He’s also right that there are other
deserving candidates for player of the year.
Kevin Jones has been phenomenal for West Virginia. Doug
McDermott has re-established Creighton as a mid-major darling.
Draymond Green of Michigan State and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State
have emerged as the two titans of the Big Ten.
Still, Davis and Robinson are leading the pack for the national
In the Wildcats’ storied history, no player has landed one of
the three major individual honors: the Wooden Award, Naismith Award
or AP Player of the Year. Dan Issel didn’t do it. Neither did Tony
Delk, Jamal Mashburn, John Wall or Tayshaun Prince.
Kevin Durant is the only freshman to win all three trophies in
the same season.
The Jayhawks have had their share of stars in recent years: Paul
Pierce, Nick Collison, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins, to name
a few. But they haven’t had anybody win national player of the year
since Danny Manning won the Naismith and Wooden awards in 1988.
No player from Kansas has won the AP award, which was first
handed out in 1961.
”It’s a two-horse race, without question,” Self said, ”and
they’re both thoroughbreds.”
So how best to handicap it?
Start with the stats:
David is averaging 14.1 points and 9.8 rebounds, and his 66.1
field goal percentage is among the 10 best in the country. The
6-foot-10 forward also has swatted 140 shots, and needs just 31
more blocks to break the SEC record set by Mississippi State’s
Jarvis Varnado in 2009.
Robinson, meanwhile, is the only player in the Big 12 to average
a double-double at 18 points and 11.9 rebounds. He’s been even
better against ranked teams, averaging 19.8 points and shooting
nearly 56 percent against a group of opponents that includes Duke,
Baylor and Missouri.
Many forget that Davis and Robinson faced each other at Madison
Square Garden early in the season. Davis finished with 14 points,
six rebounds and seven blocks in his second college game, while
Robinson turned in an 11-point, 12-rebound performance for
”If I had a vote, he’d be my vote for player of the year,”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said Saturday night, after watching
Robinson pile up 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 77-58
victory. ”Just the way he’s carried himself, playing against him –
Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor considers he an astute observer of
the game, and he’s more than willing to share his opinion on just
”Anthony Davis is a beast, man, he definitely is,” Taylor
said, ”but I just don’t see too many better than T-Rob. Especially
when he’s on top of his game.”
Davis has his own supporters, starting with the guys taking the
floor with him.
”He’s doing everything,” Kentucky guard Doron Lamb said.
”He’s always playing defense, he’s always scoring. He’s always
doing the right thing, really. I don’t see him making no
”He gets his points so easily: rebounds, dunks, stuff like
that,” added freshman forward Kyle Wiltjer. ”He’s come a long way
on offense and defense.”
There are plenty of differences in Davis and Robinson.
Davis is long and lean, while Robinson has muscles upon muscles.
Davis prefers to work around the rim, using his quickness to get
around post defenders, while Robinson has shown an improving
mid-range game and the ability to extend defenses all the way to
There are also similarities.
Both prefer to pawn off the attention on their teammates, giving
them credit for their own success. Both have become the go-to
player when things are going poorly, though that’s rarely been the
case this season. Both have led their teams to conference
Now, both of them are in the running for player of the year.
”He’s created a lot of attention for himself,” Taylor said
Robinson, one of his best friends on the Jayhawks. ”He’s the main
focus of the scouting report, for sure, and I’m sure teams talking
about us say, `If we stop Thomas, we have a chance to win the
Sounds as if the Kansas guard would vote for Bird, too.