No matter how inevitable it seems, Anthony Davis wasn’t quite ready to pronounce himself the top pick in the draft.
”It’s not set in stone,” the former Kentucky star said.
It just seems that way.
The New Orleans Hornets own the No. 1 pick later this month, and they’ll turn at least a few heads if they don’t take Davis. In a deep draft class, the lanky power forward is right there at the head of it.
Davis said Thursday at the NBA draft combine that the Hornets are the only team that has contacted his father. He said he’ll visit them at some point, although he’s not sure exactly when.
And even though he wasn’t quite ready to buy a home in the Big Easy, there’s a good chance he’ll be the one heading to the podium when commissioner David Stern announces the first pick of the draft.
With his athleticism and game-changing defense, Davis helped Kentucky win a national championship in his lone college season. Now he’s poised to join Bulls star Derrick Rose as the second Chicago product in five years to be taken with the No. 1 pick.
”I used to watch him play,” Davis said. ”He’s a monster. We played on the same AAU team.”
Now, they’re about to be in the same league, and they followed vaguely similar paths to get there. Both came from the city’s South Side and played one season in college for John Calipari.
Rose starred at Simeon Career Academy and led Memphis to the NCAA title game before being drafted by his hometown team.
Davis, on the other hand, was a late bloomer at Perspectives Charter. He played at a high school that didn’t even have its own gym and was a guard until a growth spurt.
He never lost the sweet shot and ballhandling skills as he shot up to 6-foot-10, and he seemed a natural for the big stage in college, playing with the poise and composure of a grizzled veteran – traits that should serve him well on the next level.
He showed up Thursday in a shirt that read ”check my stats,” and they certainly weren’t bad last season, when he averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds while setting a Kentucky record with 186 blocks .
”If you want to check the stats, then I’ll be the No. 1 pick easily,” said Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds), who is expected to be one of the top selections. ”I should get one of those. I should get a shirt that says `numbers don’t lie.”’
Even so, Robinson would have a hard time disputing Davis was at his best under the brightest lights. He was the most outstanding player of the Final Four, and his most impressive performance might have been in the championship game against Kansas.
Davis made just 1 of 10 shots. But he tied Joakim Noah’s individual record for blocks in the NCAA championship game with six, grabbed 16 rebounds, had five assists and three steals.
Now, he’s ready to take the next step, and has plenty of friends coming with him.
Davis along with fellow starters Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, all declared for the draft in a nationally televised news conference, and senior Darius Miller is also expected to be selected.
”It’s great,” Jones said. ”We always were there for each other. I think that’s what helped us have so much success – how much we were there for each other and communicating. It’s just good to be around my brothers.”
They’ve been working out in different places, but they were back together for this event. They even had a mini-reunion in Davis’ hotel room, discussing the not-so-old days and not-too-distant future. And, Jones said, one other thing: ”How summer school’s started and we’re not there.”
No, they’re headed somewhere else – to the next level.
Davis said being the No. 1 pick ”would make me feel very special,” and the irony that he could be playing professionally in the city where Kentucky won the championship last spring apparently wasn’t lost on Calipari.
When New Orleans won the lottery, the coach sent him a text message.
”He said, `Congratulations. I hope you have fun there. You won one national championship there. Go try to win a world championship,”’ Davis said.
Even so, he wasn’t ready to declare himself the No. 1 pick. He’ll wait to fit himself for a Hornets jersey.
He insisted he hasn’t thought about his role in New Orleans, but he is sure of one thing.
”If I keep working hard, playing hard and doing what I have to do to make my team win — do what the coaches want me to do, do what the veterans want me to do — I think the sky’s the limit,” he said.
Note: Former North Carolina PG Kendall Marshall said he’s ”coming along great” from a broken right wrist and elbow, although he did not participate in contact drills on Thursday. He was injured in the Tar Heels’ NCAA tournament win over Creighton. ”My focus right now is to get my elbow healthy to the point where I can really pound the basketball,” he said. ”There are still some passes that I can’t make that I’m used to.”