LEXINGTON — Anthony Davis is going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft later this month, but Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks he could also be part of the Olympic team going to London later this summer.
Davis led UK¿to the national title and was named the most outstanding player in the Final Four. He swept most national player of the year, freshmen of the year and defensive player of the year honors and was added to the tryout list for the United States Olympic team that will be named in early July.
“If Anthony is in great condition like he has really been working out and is ready to go,¿I really like his chances (of making the team) because they need him,” said Calipari Tuesday. “He gives them continuity in USA basketball, and he would be there for the next 12 years. He would be the youngest player to ever play on the Olympic team, post Dream Team. Now they did have another college player but he was a senior and was older. I like the opportunity that he is going to have.”
Calipari is also being mentioned as a possible coach for the 2016 Olympic team and would not deny being interested in being part of USA Basketball.
“Everyone says that. A lot of it is because how many players we have out there. There are a lot of quality, qualified coaches. I don’t think any of us coaches would say no,” Calipari said. “To have the opportunity to coach for your country is the ultimate honor. I wouldn’t be mad because there are people out there and quality coaches and more than qualified and probably more qualified than me, but obviously that would be quite an honor.”
Currently Calipari is coaching the Dominican Republic national team for the second year in a row in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics for the first time. The team will play in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament July 2-8 in Caracas, Venezuela and leaves for Puerto Rico on June 15 to compete in the FIBA CentroBasket tournament. Calipari said he will only be with the team in Puerto Rico for a day or two because he’ll be working with Kentucky’s freshmen and attending the NBA draft. The Dominican team is working out at Kentucky now.
“Last time we had a chance to go to the Olympics and we were a couple of buckets short. Now, you have Lithuania, you have Puerto Rico, you have Greece, Venezuela in Venezuela. Don’t play them, okay. Then you have Russia, Macedonia, New Zealand. You are now legitimately up against it to try and make it,” Calipari said. “This will be way harder than the stuff we did in Argentina (last summer). The good news is I think we are a little bit ahead because I have a good feel for what I am going to do with this group.
“Now, does that translate, I don’t know. When you are playing a team that is really good, it may not translate. You may say we are way better, but that team just kicked us because they are way better than we are. I’ll get enjoyment out of it, and hopefully we do something unique and special because it’s always fun to coach a team when they say they have never been to the Olympics, they have never done this, they have never done that and you are trying to get that national team started.”
Calipari said he would like to see UK assistant Orlando Antigua eventually be that head coach of the Dominican national team.
Both Calipari and Antigua are coaching 6-11 Karl Towns, a 16-year-old sophomore from Piscataway, N.J. who is one of the top players in the 2015 recruiting class. Towns is trying out for the national team because his mother is Dominican.
“He is a player who is a good player that I did not know a year ago, didn’t know anything about. He’s a pretty good player,” Calipari said. “He’s young. Will he make the team? I don’t know. He’s 16 years old. He’s 6-10 and, you know ... but he’s getting muscled right now. The guys trying to make the team are throwing him around and it’s a good experience for him.”