UK Basketball: Davis only beginning to see what lies ahead for him
Anthony Davis hugs Kentucky coach John Calipari following the Wildcats' win over Kansas in the national championship game earlier this month. Davis, who swept the national player of the year awards, said he wasn't certain until Monday that he would turn pro. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip / April 19, 2012)
Davis did everything he could have ever imagined — and more — during Kentucky’s 38-2 national championship season. He blocked a nation-best 4.7 shots per game and set school, Southeastern Conference and NCAA freshman records for blocks in a season with 186.
He led the Wildcats in scoring (14.2 points per game), rebounding (10.4 per game) and field-goal percentage (.623). He tied the school’s freshman record for double-doubles with 20 and led the SEC in that category.
Now he’s off to the NBA with five other teammates and is considered a cinch to be the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft and to sign a lucrative contract, much like former Kentucky point guard John Wall did two years ago.
Davis joked Tuesday that “I actually haven’t thought about that yet” when asked what being rich in a few months might be like.
“That’s right. I am going to be rich. That’s one thing I like,” he said.
But Davis knows riches can go away if not properly managed.
“You just have to know how to manage your money. You just can’t go out there and buy anything. You can’t trust a lot of people,” Davis said. “Coach (John Calipari) has told us when you get your money, put the first million in the bank. You just have to manage your money well. The good thing is I like math, so I should be fine.”
He said even his mother has already told him she’s been looking at a new house.
“I said, ‘Mom, look, I have not made it. I am just declaring.’ But I love them to death. I will make sure they are taken care of,” Davis said of his parents.
Don’t doubt that. They were there for him when he was an unknown 6-3 high school sophomore guard. They were there for him when he grew more than 6 inches in one year and became a top national prospect. They were there when rumors flew about improprieties in his recruiting.
They have been there for all the national player of the year awards he’s received, including the Wayman Tisdale Award he received Monday in Oklahoma City, which is where he said he finally decided he would leave Kentucky for the NBA.
“After the Wayman Tisdale banquet was exactly when I decided. I discussed it with my family real quick, and that was actually when I decided,” Davis said. “I know a lot of people say it should have been an easy decision, but it wasn’t. I am going to miss this place. Winning a national championship here means a lot. I am going to miss it.
“I always will keep in touch with (the team). They are my brothers for life. I saw Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) get emotional because of how close we are. That’s why we all wanted to do it together. We all love each other and are one big happy family.”
Davis thanks his family, friends, God and Kentucky’s coaches for giving him the opportunity to blossom in to the nation’s best player.
“I would like to thank the University of Kentucky for giving me the opportunity to play for them and letting me come here and pursue my dream. I want to thank coach Cal and all the coaching staff for working with me and making me become a better player,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I never thought I would have this chance to go to the NBA. Now that I am, it’s a dream come true. I would like to thank everyone for helping me to become this great player that I am.”
Davis couldn’t believe he and his teammates were NBA-bound even as they sat on the podium Tuesday night with coach John Calipari announcing their intentions.
“Actually, when we got done, I tapped Doron (Lamb) and said, ‘This isn’t real, man.’ In the hallway I was talking to Twany (Beckham) and said, ‘This is not real. We are going to the NBA,’” he said. “This has been our dream since we were little watching Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird. Watching all them playing and not waiting to be them. Now we finally get our opportunity.”
The only downside for Davis is that he’ll likely go to a lowly team as Wall did with the Washington Wizards and experience losing a lot the next few years.
“I just want to have fun and try to win games. I can’t let anything rattle me,” he said. “You are not going to win 82 games. That’s impossible, or if you do, that’s incredible. You are going to lose games. You just have to know how to bounce back, recover and get ready for the next game.
“I am up to the challenge. You want to go there, play hard and have fun, do the same as I did here, do whatever the team and coach wants me to. I am sure there will be veterans on the team, and I can listen to them and get advice from them. But the next level is different. It is now a job. Here we expected to win, but it was still fun.”
Davis has yet to hire an agent and is not even sure where he’ll train to get ready for the draft, issues he figures he has a few days to contemplate.
On Tuesday, he was still more focused on saying farewell to a school and teammates he grew to love — and sharing his quick wit.
“Coach Cal didn’t have to recruit us and give us a scholarship to play here, but he did. The classes are great, the professors are great, the education is great. The police keep the campus safe. The Lexington police are great when the fans get out of control. You definitely need them around here,” he said. “Probably my best advice for the guys coming in, always keep the police with you, because the fans can be crazy.”
Calipari indicated Tuesday that he might get emotional, something he did when he presented Davis the Adolph Rupp Award in New Orleans during the Final Four.
“It’s not me. Coach Cal is just soft,” Davis joked. “He just gets emotional about his kids. He gets connected, whether you are with him one or two or three years. Any guy that has played for him who he talks about, he gets emotional because he has a great connection with them no matter who it is. It’s not just me.”