NEW YORK -- Anthony Davis might be the only person on this planet who hasn’t conceded the fact he will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Thursday night.
Anthony Davis controlled the national title game with his defense.
Davis –- college basketball’s national player of the year, member of Kentucky’s NCAA national championship team, and now trademark owner of those catchy phrases tied to his famous unibrow –- says he is filled with so much anticipation he can’t sleep at night.
When asked about the lack of suspense leading up to this gargantuan moment in his life, Davis slipped on his poker face (complete with that unibrow) and responded with his own bluff. Suddenly roles were reversed and Davis was asking a media member how he knew the New Orleans Hornets would be taking him with the top pick.
Nobody has told him that, Davis said.
“All of us are nervous,” Davis said. “I’m nervous. I don’t know. New Orleans may do something else. I have no idea.”
If the Hornets go in another direction, it might be the biggest shock in draft history. During a day of interviews and appearances in New York on Wednesday, all Davis had to do was glance at one of the numerous newsstands in Times Square to see his picture on the cover of a magazine –- in a New Orleans jersey bearing the No. 1. SLAM’s pre-draft cover proclaims him as “The One” and states, “Anthony Davis Brings The Buzz to Bourbon St.”
Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, perhaps the second-most intriguing big man in this draft, let out a hearty laugh when told of the coy performance Davis staged with reporters during the NBA media availability.
“He’s a fool then,” Drummond said. “He already knows he’s going No. 1. He’s being modest. I’m cool with AD. But he knows he’s going No. 1. He definitely earned that spot, to be No. 1. There are not too many people who win every single (player of the year award). He won awards that I didn’t even know were there. He’s a special player.”
Davis is either practiced in the art of deception or still coming to grips with how far he has come and how fast.
Anyone who paid attention to the national championship drive by John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats recognizes Davis as a power forward with an amazing skill set that allows him to play any position on the floor. His seven-inch growth spurt during his junior season in high school has become an intriguing part of his popular back story. He measured 6-foot-10 1/2 in his sneakers at the NBA combine, but it wasn’t long ago he was a 6-3 guard handling the ball at his high school in Chicago.
“I never played in the post before; that wasn’t my role,” Davis said of his one and only season at Kentucky. “I was still getting used to the game, playing the 4 and the 5 (positions). Coach Cal wasn’t trying to rush me into anything and make me look bad on the floor when he knew I couldn’t do some of the things. He tries to bring you along and make you a better player.”
The end result was 14.2 points per game, 10.4 rebounds a game, 62.3 percent shooting, 186 blocks and 54 steals. The Wildcats had ball-handlers but Davis could do that too, when needed.
If it all makes you rub your eyes in disbelief, remember there was a time when Cleveland State was the only Division I team showing an interest in Davis. He was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four and controlled the national championship game against Kansas with 16 rebounds and six blocks despite scoring six points on 1-for-10 shooting. And soon he will have the opportunity to win a gold medal with Team USA at the London Olympics -- before he even steps on a NBA floor.
Davis is being called a once-in-a-decade talent and right now he’s just trying to cope with everything that goes with that.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Davis said. “But it could be worse, right? I’m just trying to take it all in.
“I think going to Kentucky really helped a lot. We had a lot of pressure at Kentucky and a lot of attention. Coach Cal does a great job of downplaying everything and just having fun with the game.”
In addition to his cover boy status, Davis has been appearing on late-night television and joking around with comedians when reporters aren’t shoving cameras and microphones in his face.
“You’ve got to try to have fun with it,” Davis said. “It’s all coming at me at once. But I try to have fun with it, downplay it, laughing and just easy all the way, not really think about it. That’s all I try to do.”
When asked about the burden of being the focal point of this draft and future face of a franchise, Davis doesn’t answer with any punch lines. That type of talk slaps him back to reality, much like one of his blocked shots that were put on display during Kentucky’s domination of the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s going to be a lot of pressure,” Davis said. “But the guys on the team –- any team I go to –- are veterans and guys with experience who can really help you with that. The (players association) has a rookie transition program that can help you handle it.”
Davis is the only rookie who must cope with comparisons to Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant. Of all the pressures, those expectations seem to bother Davis the least.
“I always compare myself to both (Garnett and Durant),” he said. “They’re both great players. KG is an awesome player and so is Kevin Durant. You can’t go wrong (with either). It’s an honor to be compared to KG. He’s a great player and he plays hard. I mean, I play just like him -- without the trash talk.”
Why would Davis need trash talk when he has the unibrow? In an age when trends such as “Tebowing” and “Linsanity” can catch on so fast, the Hornets are not only getting the top pick but the best brand in the draft as well.
Davis didn't grow his eyebrows that way intentionally, but he has no plans to shave it. Kentucky fans honored the unconventional look with posters and slogans such as “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow.”
“I’ve heard it all,” he said.
So has his family. Together with his agent, Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group, Davis’s parents decided to stop others from financially benefiting from Brow T-shirts and phrases. The trademark acquired earlier this month for those two phrases was an extremely popular topic at media day Wednesday.
“I had nothing to do with that,” Anthony said. “My parents and my agent just told me they had done it. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I found out a couple of days after. I can’t tell you (the process) because I didn’t do it.”
It all will be part of the Davis mystique and when commissioner David Stern calls his name Thursday night everything else will be in the past. The next step in his meteoric rise will require a sizable leap. And he knows it won’t come easy.
“Failure (is my biggest fear),” Davis said. “Nobody wants to fail. Just going in and not producing the way that you thought you could is my biggest fear.
“But it’s going to be a great opportunity. This has been my dream, my life goal -- just to say that I have played in the NBA and finally made it.”