LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach John Calipari made it clear here Thursday during Media Day that 6-9 freshman Anthony Davis is not a center. However, he made it clear Davis, who has been named a preseason All-American, is indeed special.
“He's really good. He's a great kid. This kid has a smile on his face. If I told him, you're playing center and you're going to have to slug it out, he would say, okay,” said Calipari. “And the reason we changed our (fast) break is I keep watching our team and saying, ‘I don't want to run him to the rim because that's not what he is.’ Get out there and run and make plays, and then slide in there if you need to. He's not a center.”
Davis has enjoyed the limited practice time he’s had under Calipari and likes the potential he sees in this year’s team.
“Everybody is really competing against each other, and so far we are making each other look good,” Davis said. “Our goal is to win a national championship and if you keep talking about your goal, you can accomplish it. So that’s what we try to go out there and do. We want to win games and work hard to reach our goal.”
Here is more of what Davis had to say Thursday at UK’s Media Day:
Question: How have the first seven one-hour practices been?
Davis: “They have been good. Everybody goes hard to make each other better. It has been real fun.”
Question: Do you agree with Calipari that UK¿really doesn’t have a true center this year?
Davis: “I do agree. We really don’t have a center, but everybody can do the same things. Everybody can dribble, shoot, pass, whatever it may be. We try to put in offensive sets that work for us.”
Question: Will that be a weakness with no true center or a strength that opposing teams have to figure out how to match?
Davis: “I think it definitely will be a strength. People will have to try and match up with it and their bigs won’t be able to do what our bigs can do. It will be hard for them to match up against us.”
Question: Do you feel any pressure at all?
Davis: “I wouldn’t say it is pressure. There are a lot of people that expect a lot. Everybody wants you to be great here. Everybody only wants the best from you. It’s more like a family wanting you to do well.”
Question: Is that still hard to accept as a freshman?
Davis: “You really don’t know what to expect, but that is what all the veterans are here for. Darius (Miller), Terrence (Jones), Doron (Lamb) really help us out and tell us what to expect and tell us what to do and what not to do. That’s really helpful.”
Question: What is the best advice one of them has given you?
Davis: “Darius always says when coach Cal will curse you out or whatever, don’t make any facial expressions. Just take it. When he talks bad, don’t make the situation worse. Just calm down and take it in.”
Question: How unexpected was it to have so many current NBA players working out in Lexington in the last few months?
Davis: “It wasn’t really unexpected. Coach Cal told us some of the main guys were going to come in. It was really fun playing against them and them trying to make us better. We learned a lot. (Former UK¿player) Nazr Muhammad (of Oklahoma City) was in here and every time one of the bigs matched up against him he would tell them what to do. So would DeMarcus (Cousins), Kevin Durant, LeBron (James). Everybody was really helping us out.”
Question: How did you do against Cousins, a guy who is much thicker than you?
Davis: “He really couldn’t score because he said I was too long and blocked his shots a lot. But he really helped us and tried to make us better. I worked out with him some, too.”
Question: Do you agree with Calipari about this being an unconventional team because of so many interchangeable players?
Davis: “I know he just wants the best from us and he says this is one of the greatest teams he has had in a long time and one of the fastest teams as well. He just wants us to play hard and win a lot of games.”
Question: When he says there are a lot of interchangeable parts, what does he mean?
Davis: “There are a lot of guys — me, Terrence, Kyle — who all can shoot and dribble. There are a lot of fours (power forwards) who can beat a three (small forward), or threes who can beat twos (shooting guards). We are all interchangeable and we will have an offense that will play that way.”
Question: With so much talent, does a player like sophomore Stacy Poole have a chance to get into the playing rotation?
Davis: “He’s really been working hard. If you just work hard, you are going to play. Coach Cal really don’t care who you are. If you work hard and go out there and show him that you want to play, then he is going to play you.”
Question: Could this team be even better than you thought it might be when you signed with Kentucky?
Davis: “I really didn’t see a lot of guys play here last year. When we started playing pickup games and I saw that people here could really play and were going to help us out a lot.”
Question: Do you still sometimes think of yourself as a guard like you were before you hit such a big growth spurt in high school?
Davis: “I have gotten used to my 3-4 (small forward-power forward) role. He (Calipari) still lets us play out on the wing and play the perimeter, but I¿still have to go down and bang with the big dogs. I can hit the 3 if needed.”
Question: What did you like best about playing for coach Cortez Hale in high school in Chicago?
Davis: “He really knew his basketball thing. He had good knowledge of the game, but he just also wanted to go out there and have fun. He wanted everybody to work hard in practice. No horse playing then. But he let you have fun in games.”
Question: How did he help you develop your skills on a team that was not overly talented at other positions?
Davis: “He knew that my teammates as we expected, but he told me that was where my leadership role came in. That is where I¿had to be a leader. When you get to wherever you are going, you will have to be the same kind of leader. That is what he told me to always be a leader. Never ball hog no matter what happened. Just lead.”
Question: Is he somebody you will remain in contact with during your UK¿career as well as a potential NBA career?
Davis: “Yes. I guarantee you I will always talk to him. We are real close. We have a great relationship. I am lucky to be real close to him.”
Question: Since you are such a good shot blocker, can you block freshman teammate Kyle Wiltjer’s hook shot?
Davis: “I blocked it a couple of times. It’s a real good move and nobody can really block it.”