METAIRIE — Anthony Davis’ new bling spoke for itself.
The gold medal Davis won as a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team at the London Olympics he was sporting around his neck on Thursday brought home the point that it had been a memorable summer for Davis. The 19-year-old transitions from leading Kentucky to the NCAA Championship in his one and only season as a collegian to the Hornets making him the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and now to the opening of his first training camp next week.
“I don’t feel like an NBA player yet,” Davis said as he met the media at the Saints training facility. “But I’m not a college player anymore either.
“I guess I’m just a guy who likes to play basketball. When I play in my first NBA game, I guess I’ll consider myself an NBA player.”
Davis wasn’t supposed to be on the Olympic team, but when Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury, Davis was selected as his replacement.
He didn’t play a prominent role of the team — averaging 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds while averaging 7.6 minutes.
But the experience, Davis said, was invaluable.
“I learned from the best guys in the league,” he said. “Guys like Kobe and LeBron all made big impressions on me. They showed me what it takes to be a professional.”
One thing Davis said he realized, both during the Olympics and in recent workouts with his teammates in San Antonio was that he needs to get stronger.
At 6-foot-10 but listed only 220 pounds, Davis will be giving up bulk to most of the power forwards and centers he will face.
“This is a strong, physical game,” he said. “I’ve got to stay in the weight room.”
Davis added he had gained some weight over the summer, but wasn’t sure how much.
One thing Davis he won’t have to worry about — at least not yet — will be carrying his team on his shoulders offensively.
A defensive-minded player on an exceptionally balanced team, Davis averaged 14.2 points as a freshman at Kentucky, but added 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocked shots,
In the Wildcats’ national championship victory against Kansas, Davis was named the MVP despite scoring just six points on 1 of 10 shooting because he also had 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals.
“Coach (Monty Williams) has taken a lot of pressure off me by saying that it’s all on the team and the organization,” Davis said. “I’m just 19, and I’m going into a grown man’s league.”
In fact, Davis added, the Hornets are so young that he’s heard them referred to as an AAU team.
“That would be great,” he said. “Scoring 100 points a game and zipping up and down the court.”
Instead, despite the presence of Davis, fellow first-round pick Austin Rivers, a healthy Eric Gordon and an infusion of talent that has almost completely remade a team that finished 21-45 and last in the Southwest Division last year, few are predicting a playoff season for the team.
“Rebuilding’s going to be tough,” Davis said. “But we’ll be going out there trying to win every game.
“Nobody should take us lightly.”