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‘Big Baby’ now feasting on foes, not food

WP: At trimmer 308 pounds, LSU star a 'different player,' as Duke will find out
Louisiana State's Glen Davis says his previous eating habits were "the only thing holding me back."Alex Brandon / AP
/ Source: a href="" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true">The Washington Post</a

Teammates joked that Glen Davis subscribed to the official Fat Boy diet, but the truth is he even had trouble sticking to that. The Louisiana State sophomore would eat to extreme excess -- say three Big Macs, two portions of large fries and a 40-ounce soda -- and then walk back up to the McDonald's counter and order two desserts.

A few of his freshman-year feasts became legendary at LSU: The time he downed a bag of 25 Chips Ahoy cookies -- about 2,200 calories worth -- in 20 minutes; the study hall session when he poured two bags of M&M's into his mouth at once; the late-night snack when he ordered a family-sized bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and ate every piece himself.

Sitting in front of his locker at the NCAA tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., last week, Davis reminisced about his mass consumption and he beamed like a man recounting the greatest achievements of his youth. He loves food. He loves eating. He would love to do nothing more right now, he said, then run out to the nearest fast-food joint and order every item on the menu.

"But I can't, man," the 6-foot-9 Davis said woefully. "My eating habits were the only thing holding me back."

Davis has spent the last six months eating an organic diet he described as torture, but it's likely the main reason LSU advanced to play Duke in the round of 16 on Thursday night. The Tigers' sophomore dropped from about 360 pounds to 308 this season, realizing a balance of power and agility that made him the player of the year in the Southeastern Conference. Davis, who averages 20 points and 10 rebounds, scored a total of 43 points in the first two rounds to help LSU move on.

"He's a different player. There's almost nothing he can't do right now," LSU Coach John Brady said. "He hasn't lost any of his strength, and now he moves much more quickly. I think what he is doing sometimes even surprises him."

Davis initially bristled when Brady set him up with a nutritionist during the offseason. And when he heard specifics of the proposed diet, he joked to teammates that he might have to transfer.

The specialist wanted Davis to start each day with a bowl of organic oatmeal, eat salad in the afternoon and replace Chips Ahoys with vanilla wafers. Davis was allowed to eat four meals a day -- one or two fewer than he usually ate -- but only if he decreased portion size.

"It's kind of like eating that stuff you see on 'Fear Factor,' " Davis said. "It's been painful, man. I'm talking about going through some suffering."

But Davis -- known at LSU as either Baby Shaq or Big Baby -- grew to like the sight of his own abdominal muscles, and he especially enjoyed the way he still felt fresh late in games. Last season, Davis averaged 13 points and nine rebounds, but he often had to sit for long portions of the second half to catch his breath. In two NCAA tournament games this season, he averaged 35 minutes and almost never left the court in the second half.

As his body shrunk, Davis watched his skill set expand. He hasn't weighed as little as 308 pounds, his current weight, since seventh grade, he said, and he's rediscovered moves he thought he'd never pull off again. During the two games in Jacksonville, he hit four fadeaway jumpers, swished two shots from 17 feet and broke the Iona full-court press twice with a crossover dribble.

He dived over the Texas A&M bench while chasing a loose ball in the second round, knocking over three chairs and two assistant coaches. Then he hopped up, sprinted back down the court and grabbed the next rebound.

"I don't think you can ever stop him," said Texas A&M Coach Billy Gillispie, whose team lost to LSU, 58-57. "He's one of those players that can do everything, and you just hope he doesn't kill you. He's even better in person than what we saw on film. He's a marvel to look at."

Davis's new body defies convention. He's a brick of intimidation -- an impression starkly contrasted by his cherubic face and colorful braces. Davis's calf muscles are like bowling balls, and they sometimes bang into each other when he walks. His chest sticks out beyond the rest of his body, and it bulldozes Davis's path to a rebound.

He'll be opposed by Duke's Shelden Williams, a 6-9, 250-pound defensive demon (he paces Duke in rebounds, blocks and steals) who also happens to be a pretty good offensive player (18.7 per game). He and Davis both look at this as their stiffest test of the season.

“He’s an incredible player,” Williams said. “Somebody that size, who moves as well as he does, it’s just amazing to watch. I know it’s going to be a very physical game in the low post throughout the whole course of the game. I know we both are prepared for that, and hopefully we’ll play the game without any injuries going on.”

Davis has no intention of backing down.

“I am trying not to get too excited because a guy like me, who is kind of low on the radar, is licking his chops right now because this is an opportunity to show the world that you can play,” he said. “I am seizing the opportunity that I have to compete against one of these elite players. Me being the competitor that I am, I am loving this. This is what you dream of.”

Earlier this season, a few smaller teammates measured the circumference of one of their legs against one of Davis's arms. Davis flexed his biceps when retelling the story; the result, he said, was not even close.

"He went from chubby to beast," said LSU guard Darrel Mitchell, who hit the winning three-pointer against Texas A&M. "Where he used to be soft, now there's nothing but muscle. He's had an unbelievable season."

And Davis has already started to envision a celebration befitting of such success. For one night, he said, he's going to go out with the team and ditch his diet. They'll all go for a huge dinner, then for dessert, then for dinner again.

"When this is all over, I'm just going to eat," Davis said. "I'll just keep piling it in, maybe for like seven straight hours."