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June 28, 2012

Draft notes: Davis sets sights on USA Basketball

NEW YORK - On Thursday, Anthony Davis will officially become a member of one of the NBA's worst teams.

Before the summer is out, the former Kentucky forward hopes to play for one of pro basketball's best.

Davis, a virtual lock to the New Orleans Hornets' selection with the No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, remains hopeful that he'll land a spot on USA Basketball's Olympic team, which is London-bound this summer.

"Another one of my goals is to try to win a gold medal representing my country," Davis said Wednesday. "To be able to do that at 19 years old before I even touch the NBA court, that's going to be awesome if I get a chance to make it. But I know it's going to be very hard, so I've got to come in with hard work."

The 6-foot-10 Davis, the NCAA Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four in his lone season at UK, is one of 18 players vying for a spot on USA Basketball's 12-man Olympics roster.

The team will hold a training camp July 6-12 in Las Vegas.

Earlier this month, UK coach John Calipari said he likes Davis' chances of making the team if he's in great condition, saying Team USA needs him.

"He also gives them continuity in USA Basketball; he'll be there for the next 12 years," Calipari said. "You've got a guy that will give continuity. Now he'd be the youngest player to ever play on the Olympic post-Dream Team. They've had one other college player (Christian Laettner), but he was a senior. He was older. But I like the opportunity (Davis) is going to have."

From UK to NBA
Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the only Kentucky players invited to Thursday's draft and therefore the only ones who attended Wednesday's pre-draft media interviews.

But they're not alone in embarking on the NBA journey. Former teammates Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller also expect to be selected sometime during the two-round draft.

That would give UK six draft picks, making it the second school to accomplish that feat and the first since the NBA limited its draft to two rounds in 1989. UNLV had six picks in the 1977 draft, which had eight rounds. The Runnin' Rebels did not have a player selected in the first round.

Kidd-Gilchrist said Calipari deserves "a lot" of the credit for the recent run of UK draftees. After Thursday, UK will have had 15 players selected in the past three seasons.

"Every day in practice, (Calipari) pushes us," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "Night, day, morning. I can call him at night, morning, any time of the day. I think he'll be a Hall of Fame coach when it's all said and done."

UK provides preparation for the NBA in a range of ways. When Davis was asked Wednesday about the fame and fortune he's about to experience, he credited Kentucky fans with readying him for the attention.

"When y'all talk about fans being crazy, if you haven't seen Kentucky fans, y'all don't know what crazy fans are," Davis said. "I think Kentucky really got me prepared for it."

For Kidd-Gilchrist, the biggest benefit might have been his work to deal with a speech impediment that was a hurdle to overcome in dealing with the large media contingent that covers the Wildcats.

"It's a lot of practice," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I really came a long way from where I used to be."

For all the advantages of playing at an NBA-like program at Kentucky, though, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist will be as nervous as their draft classmates Thursday night as they await an on-stage handshake from Commissioner David Stern.

"I don't think anything can prepare you for tomorrow night," Davis said. "That was a big part of my life, UK, and this is a big night. I just can't wait for it to happen."

Family man
Asked what sort of celebration he has planned for Thursday, Kidd-Gilchrist smiled and said, "Family affair."

He means it literally.

Kidd-Gilchrist is from Somerdale, N.J., about 80 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark, site of Thursday's draft. He played his high school basketball at St. Patrick in Elizabeth, N.J., about six miles from the draft site.

On Thursday, he'll bus more than 100 friends and family to a draft-night party in Manhattan.

But the most important guest will be his mother, Cindy Richardson, who will be in the Green Room with her son.

"My mom's my best friend in life," said Kidd-Gilchrist, who cited spoiling his mother as his primary goal in announcing his decision to enter the NBA Draft after a season at Kentucky. "I already got her a car. Nice little car. It's been a dream come true."

Face to face
Davis was noncommittal Wednesday when asked the NBA player he's most looking forward to facing, but Kidd-Gilchrist had his answer ready.

Kidd-Gilchrist picked Davis.

"Ant," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "That's my best friend, I think. I want to dunk on him."


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