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Originally published Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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UW men's basketball | LSU's Davis lives up to potential

Louisiana State forward Glen Davis, the story goes, was first tagged "Big Baby" as a 9-year-old for complaining to his football coach about...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Louisiana State forward Glen Davis, the story goes, was first tagged "Big Baby" as a 9-year-old for complaining to his football coach about being told to play against 11- and 12-year-olds because he was too large to compete against those his age.

Davis is still big at 6-foot-9 — officially tipping the scale at 295 but has been up to as much as 370 during his college career — but he'd much rather laugh than cry these days.

"He's charismatic and fun-loving beneath all of that," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar of Davis, whose Tigers will play the Huskies at Edmundson Pavilion on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Once, when playing at Kentucky, a Wildcats fan unveiled a poster with Davis' face superimposed over the head of "Grimace" of McDonald's fame. Davis chuckled and sought out the creator for a handshake. Told that story Monday, Romar said it fit the Davis he first saw on the recruiting circuit a few years ago.

"He would play to the crowd in all-star games and have the crowd eating out of his hands," Romar said. "With his size, he could do so much on the floor that people would say 'No. Did you see that? Can you believe what he just did?' And you knew it wasn't a fluke."

It's proved not to be as Davis has lived up to what has been exceedingly high expectations from LSU fans.

He averaged 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds last season, and he was named an All-American and SEC Player of the Year. He helped lead the Tigers to the Final Four as a sophomore and has even better numbers this season after shedding about 50 pounds, allowing him to stay on the court longer. He's averaging 20.1 points and 10.3 rebounds through eight games.

Wednesday

LSU @ UW, 7:30 p.m., FSN

"I feel more agile and more mobile," he said Monday after No. 12 LSU's practice at UW. "I can do more on the floor, creating for my teammates more."

Even being more agile, however, doesn't allow Davis to escape the increasing clutches of fame in Baton Rouge, where he has long been one of the city's biggest names.

Davis grew up there and attended University High School, located on the LSU campus. By the time he decided to stay home and play for LSU, he was already one of the best-known athletes in the area. He played tailback on the football team, was a Parade and McDonald's All-American in basketball, and drew a lot of empathy for persevering through a sometimes-rough home life as his mother had a well-chronicled history of drug problems. For a while, Davis lived with the family of current LSU teammate Garrett Temple.

That Davis made it through is no surprise to Romar, who said in conversations he had with Davis that he was "a bright kid, a thoughtful kid, a sensitive kid."

All of that seemed in evidence last summer when Davis decided to stay in school for another year rather than cash in on his NBA stock which rose quickly with LSU's Final Four trip.

Hanging around has paid off in the eyes of some NBA scouts, impressed that Davis lost weight over the summer, which they viewed as evidence of his maturity.

His appearance and playing for LSU have raised inevitable comparisons to Shaquille O'Neal. Romar says only in temperament are they the same. Instead, Romar compares Davis more to Charles Barkley or former Arizona State star Ike Diogu in terms of style.

"You're talking about a guy that's good inside like that, yet can also take you off the dribble," Romar said. "We watched them play Texas and he dribbled through the zone and got all the way to the rim. That's hard to do for guards, yet he did that. He's a unique basketball player."

While the game will likely be billed as a matchup of two potential first-round draft picks in Davis and UW's Spencer Hawes, it is likely that forward Jon Brockman will get the primary duty of defending Davis.

"I know he's going to come at me and I'm going to go at him," Brockman said. "It's going to be a battle down there."

"When you try to make a charge, I have a good edge on you because you can't take the contact, so that means I'm going to keep pounding you," Davis said.

And if his history means anything, that's more than just Big Baby talk.

Note

• Romar said Nate Robinson called him Sunday, the day after Robinson and the New York Knicks brawled with the Denver Nuggets, and the two planned to talk today. But Romar said he wouldn't be lecturing his former player. "I don't look at that and say 'What is Nate doing? He's an idiot.' I don't say that at all," Romar said. "You can't condone it because the rules are the rules, but if you challenge Nate Robinson, he's not backing down. It's that simple."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

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