LSU's `Big Baby' set to rattle Duke

Atlanta Regional


ATLANTA -- Glen Davis is called "Baby Shaq" and sometimes "Baby Barkley," and the reasons are obvious.

Louisiana State's center is 6 feet 9, 310 pounds. And that's a slimmed-down 310 pounds, Davis wants you to know.

He's been on practically a starvation diet for a year, Davis said sadly. His world is lessened because he can't eat entire bags of cookies or KFC family buckets - he used to be a family of one when it came to the bucket - or three quarts of ice cream one after the other after the other.

"I used to love to eat," Davis said nostalgically. But teammate Darrel Mitchell pointed out that "Glen isn't exactly starving himself."

Davis is quickly turning into one of the most beloved characters of the NCAA tournament.

His news briefings during last week's first- and second-round games, and again at the Georgia Dome yesterday, have been better than some Laugh Factory stand-up nights.

How was Davis feeling about the world, about the Duke game tonight, about his personal matchup against Shelden Williams, the Blue Devils' All-America center? "Hotel room's ready, get something to eat. You know. How y'all doing?"

The room cracked up.

But the agreeable Davis is much more than a jolly fat guy who makes fun of himself. The sophomore who grew up only five miles from LSU's Baton Rouge campus led the Southeastern Conference with averages of 18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds a game and was the league's Player of the Year.

When talking about his nicknames, Davis gets almost serious. It is an honor, he said, to be compared to Shaquille O'Neal, a fellow LSU big man with an oversized body and outsized personality, and it is a hoot to be mentioned along with Charles Barkley, who while at Auburn was called "Round Mound of Rebounds," for his roly-poly physique and propensity to snatch rebounds.

"But I have my own nickname," Davis said.

He is known as "Big Baby," and how he came to be called that is another part of Davis' comedy routine.

"I was like this giant kid in pee-wee football and kids were always ganging up on me and the refs would never call nothing," Davis said. "And when I'd complain some parent would always say, `Quit whining you big baby.' And pretty soon everybody was just calling me `Big Baby.' "And, no offense to nobody, but I want to be known as Big Baby. That's my name and my identity.

"I want to have my own stamp of immortality. I can't live forever being known as `Baby Shaq.' But we do got a couple of similarities. We like to dominate."

Were Davis to play Williams well tonight, and were the Tigers to upset a team making its ninth straight Sweet 16 appearance and seeded No. 1 overall in the tournament, Davis might be on his way to immortality.

"Yeah," Davis said. "I know. I am loving this right now. I am respecting this guy, but I am ready. I am so ready for it."

Diane Pucin writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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