Jacob Eisenberg explains why Anthony Davis is better situated to succeed in his transition to the NBA than many of his top-pick predecessors.
For many top rookies, the transition from college and the NBA is a culture shock. Between learning how to manage newfound wealth to adjusting to excruciating travel schedules, the entrance into professionalism is so difficult that many prospects eventually crumble under the pressure of lofty expectations and leave their star potential unfulfilled.
Fortunately for the New Orleans Hornets, Anthony Davis already has two distinct advantages over previous top prospects that will prove to be beneficial in his rise to NBA stardom:
1. Familiar teammates to play with
2. Proper coaching experience in his past
For Davis, the 19-year-old who was selected first in the 2012 NBA Draft, having the opportunity to play in New Orleans with two friends as rookie teammates will certainly expedite his acclimation to the league. In Darius Miller, the captain of Davis’ Kentucky team, and Austin Rivers — the former Duke star who was Davis’ chief rival as a top recruit out of high school in 2011 — the 2011-2012 Naismith Player of the Year already has a solid nucleus of guys he can develop with.
“It has been great,” said Davis, “They have been helping me through the whole transition just like I have been helping them. We are just trying to make each other better.”
For Davis, entering the NBA with a former teammate is a clear bonus. For that former teammate to be Darius Miller — the senior leader of Davis’ Kentucky team last season and a second round pick of the Hornets in June — makes the opportunity even more special. Miller shared, “I am just going through the transition to the NBA too. For me and Anthony (Davis), it is just about being there as friends, just like we were at Kentucky. It helps a lot to go through this NBA process with someone you are familiar with.”
Miller is the only member of last year’s National Championship team who had played all four years of college at Kentucky and figures to bring maturity and leadership to the Hornets organization. Over Miller’s four years in Lexington, he had the benefit of playing with several different future NBA stars including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Brandon Knight. Miller has seen former teammates acclimate to professional lifestyles and has heard of various experiences that should prepare him for what to expect as a rookie. By sharing those experiences with Davis, Miller has helped them both prepare for the NBA.
As for Austin Rivers, the only recruit who rated higher than Davis in the high school class of 2011, the opportunity to play alongside his former rival is an especially exciting opportunity. Rivers said, “It has been a blessing to go through this experience with Anthony (Davis). Him and me were battling against each other in high school and now we get to play together on the same team. It is kind of neat. We both get pressure relieved off ourselves because we are going through it with each other.”
For Davis, a prospect touted as “The Next Kevin Garnett” and considered by many to be “the most sure-thing” of a number one overall pick since LeBron James in 2003, getting some pressure relieved by having Rivers as a teammate is necessary.
Equally necessary to having Miller and Rivers around will be Davis’ utilization of the tutoring he received while playing under John Calipari. Davis noted, “Coach (Calipari) definitely prepared me well for the league. He ran his program like an NBA team and that is clear by the success of all of his players who are in the NBA now.” Miller was quick to agree with his teammate, “It is not exactly the same as college but Coach (Calipari) definitely prepared us, especially with our mindsets and the ways that we play.”
Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams likes the improvements he has seen from his rookies so far. After playing the Hawks on October 18th, Williams said, “This is a man’s game and our young guys are starting to realize how they need to play.”
Now, with just under a week remaining until the regular season begins, Davis’ strong preseason has already raised his colossal expectations in New Orleans to even greater heights. Fortunately, Davis has the necessary network around him, the proper training experience, and the competitive mindset necessary to prepare him for a strong rookie campaign. For being only a teenager, Davis’ short-term and long-term futures look incredibly bright.