USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski have seen a lot of New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis.
Davis, 20, was the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic gold-medal winning team, and last summer he participated in Team USA practices. And, Krzyzewski said, he has watched Davis play during this NBA season.
So, it was no surprise when Davis was among 28 NBA players announced Wednesday morning for USA Basketball’s initial 2014-16 national team roster.
“It feels good,” said Davis, 6-foot-10, who in his second season in the NBA is averaging 20.2 points on 52.2 percent shooting and 10.3 rebounds and is leading the NBA in blocked shots at 3.0 per game. “There was a lot of hard work in the offseason to get better and improve my game, and USA Basketball took notice of it. I’ll keep working, and hopefully go out there and keep getting better and show them that I want to compete and play for them.”
From that pool of 28 players will come 12-player teams representing the United States for the FIBA World Cup on Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain, and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janero.
“Anthony’s trajectory as far as improvement keeps going higher and higher and higher,” said Krzyzewski, who had gushed about Davis after last summer’s practices. “The very first thing is he’s not your normal big guy because he’s very, very fluid. He can guard probably every position.”
Pelicans coach Monty Williams was selected as an assistant coach for the team last summer. Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, an NBA All-Star last season, also participated in the Team USA practices but was not selected for the pool. Krzyzewski said Holiday was given full consideration.
“If you look at the point guard position, it’s very deep,” he said.
That can be said of the entire pool. Colangelo said the roster is the strongest USA Basketball has ever had since a program of players committing to play and participate was instituted in 2005. Team USA has gone 62-1 in international play under the current system, more significantly winning the past two Olympics.
Eleven players from the 2012 Olympic team are in the pool. It is particularly deep at power forward, where 2012 holdovers Davis and the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love are joined by others who have emerged as stars or ones with great potential — LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried.
And, centers Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and DeMarcus Cousins are in the pool, which is significant because Krzyzewski often uses small forwards LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at power forward because of their size, providing more firepower. That could limit the big men chosen.
However, it appears Davis already has been figured prominently into the team, now and certainly with an eye on the future.
“The thing I love about him is his athleticism and his ability to block shots and finish,” Krzyzewski said. “For this group, he can be a great rim protector for us and an amazing ball-screen defense big guy because of his mobility. He can step in and, if necessary, even switch and guard a number of players.
“He’s a star, and he’s going to be a great, great player.”
Williams said Davis’ being selected is huge for him, his family and the Pelicans.
“Obviously, he’s done a lot in a short period of time,” Williams said. “It says a lot about his character and how much he’s put into his game from a work standpoint and what not only the NBA but the national committee thinks of a guy like him at such a young age.”