NEW YORK — It is 1:28 PM on Wednesday afternoon and a throng of reporters are gathered around an empty table. A purple microphone sits at the head of the table, awaiting the arrival of a 6-11 rebounding and shot-blocking machine that simply doesn’t come around very often.
The NBA draft will take place later today in Newark, NJ. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of really good players who will likely help downtrodden franchises on their way back to or into relevancy - Brad Beal, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters, just to name a few.
But none of those players will receive the attention that the gangly, unibrow-wearing forward-center from Kentucky will receive, and with good reason.
Anthony Davis’ story is the kind that can’t be made up – the one where a 6-2 junior grew to be nearly 7-feet tall, the one where he went from being a point guard with funny looking goggles and just one D-I offer from Cleveland State to being the consensus No. 1 player in his high school class in under six months.
The one where he ended up at Kentucky – a blue chip recruit at an NBA lottery pick factory headed by coach John Calipari – and made his presence felt in the paint unlike nearly any player in college basketball history, winning the 2012 NCAA championship and Wooden Award in the process.
The time is now 1:30 PM and Davis walks through the double doors of the Majestic Ballroom on the fifth floor of the Westin Hotel, his long arms in a white shirt with black and gray checkered stripes that seemed as if they would never end.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity, my dream, my life goal. Just to say that I’ve been in the NBA and that I’ve finally made it,” Davis said.
That answer was first among many over the next 30 minutes that were carefully crafted considering his situation – the spotlight on, media members waiting for a slip-up, a noteworthy comment to make a big deal about.
Is there anybody you would like to dunk on?
“No. Not yet,” Davis replied, well aware of the tabloid tricks that were coming his way.
What was it like to get that unibrow copyrighted and trademarked?
“Actually, I had nothing to do with that, to be honest with you,” said Davis. “My parents and my agent, they just told me like , ‘Thats done,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I didn’t even know about it.”
When did you find out about it?
“A couple days after it happened,” he said. ”I can’t tell you about it because I didn’t do it.”
You’ve been compared to Kevin Garnett and Kevin Durant. Are those comparisons accurate?
“I would compare myself to both those guys, but not one more than the other,” explained Davis. ”They’re both great players – KG is an awesome player and Kevin Durant is an awesome player.”
What’s the first thing your going to buy with an NBA paycheck?
“My mom – a house.”
Davis was there answering questions, but not giving the media any juicy story lines to work with.
Underneath the checkered shirt and the long, black pants is a kid who dreamt of getting to this point in his life but wasn’t always sure it would happen. Unlike Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard, who were all shoo-ins to make the NBA from the time they were juniors in high school, Davis was just trying to get a scholarship, just trying to better himself and hopefully make it to this point.
“No,” Davis said bluntly. “I did, but not this early. Probably three or four years, but not this early in my life.”
Regardless of being the No. 1 pick and becoming the pillar of a rebuilding project for the New Orleans Hornets, Davis will embark on his own journey, a journey that many have been on before, but not in the same exact way as Davis.
It’s not often that a guy is a point guard as a junior in high school and the leading shot-blocker in the nation as a freshman in college.
“I never played in the post before, so that was never my role,” Davis said of his pre-collegiate days. ”I was still getting used to the game playing the 4 and the 5, so (Calipari) wasn’t trying to rush me into doing things that would make me look bad on the floor when he knew I couldn’t do some of those things. He would try to bring you along through the season and make you become a better player and when your time is ready, he’ll run plays for you.”
At Kentucky, Davis displayed a motor, willingness and desire to do everything he could to win at both ends – extremely solid attributes that are valuable in a veteran, let alone someone who is about to enter the league with Davis’ potential. As with most post players, Davis will have to work hard to master a go-to move along with counter moves and a mid-range jumper in order to become a legitimate scoring option at the NBA level.
For a player who wants to succeed and whose trajectory has been on an upward pattern mirroring his phenomenal growth spurt, further developing that motor along with the offensive skills to match his size could turn out to be the natural progressions of a player the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while, if ever.
As legendary Indiana coach and current ESPN broadcaster Bob Knight mentioned repeatedly during the 2011-12 NCAA season, “He reminds me of Bill Russell!”
Nobody will win championships the way Russell did throughout the 1960s with the Boston Celtics. But if Davis can continue to progress the way he has thus far, the NBA has a star that we will be paying close attention to for a long time.
“I know I have a lot of work to do,” Davis of his expected impact as a rookie. “Guys (have been) in the league way longer than me. This is their job, this is what they do. If I do have an impact (right away), that would be awesome, but I don’t plan on it.”
From this day forward, Mr. Davis, you’re not fooling anyone with that kind of talk.
Like it or not, that’s what happens when you grow nearly a foot and become the consensus overall pick in the NBA draft.
Jeremy Bauman is a 2011 graduate of Indiana University and the newest writer for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.