Jerry Colangelo, the man who leads this country's effort in international basketball, says Anthony Davis is a "long shot" to make the United States' Olympic team this summer. "Because of inexperience and etc., etc," he said.
Yet, Davis, who turned 19 in March, might be a long shot that pays off, the USA Basketball chairman added in a telephone interview last week.
"He's not a guard competing for a guard position where we're reasonably deep," Colangelo said in appraising Davis' chances to making the U.S. team.
Colangelo, who used the word "intriguing" to describe Davis' combination of height, length and perimeter skills, said Kentucky's Player of the Year last season as a freshman has another quality that improves the odds of making the Olympic team. This attribute appeared — and not for the first time — in the national championship game when Davis led UK to victory despite making only one basket.
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"We don't have any shortage of scorers," Colangelo said in an Olympic-sized understatement. "Anthony has a chance to make his mark sooner rather than later just by rebounding, defending, getting up and down the court, being a team player. He doesn't have to score."
Chances are Davis will not make the U.S. team. He'll be a young man competing against grown men. But it's a no-lose situation for a player that Colangelo likened to Kevin Durant circa 2007. Durant, like Davis this year, was coming off a stellar college freshman season. Before Durant decided to leave Texas for the NBA, Colangelo spoke to him about trying out for a U.S. team.
"Just to invite him to our camp," Colangelo said. "To expose him to USA Basketball. To get him around some of our players, which I thought would be a good experience for him as a player."
Durant eagerly accepted the invitation.
"He came very close to making the team," Colangelo said. "So he showed that he was much further along than people might have thought. He certainly left an indelible impression."
Before inviting Davis to the tryouts, Colangelo spoke with good friend John Calipari. The UK coach vouched for Davis' good character, noted the player's team-first approach and explained the well-chronicled growth spurt that turned a high school guard into a record-breaking shot blocker/intimidator.
Calipari also cautioned Colangelo from any pre-conceived notions about a player with only one season of college experience. "Jerry, I think you're going to be surprised because he may force you to make a decision," the UK coach told the USA Basketball chairman.
Colangelo saw for himself when he attended the Final Four in New Orleans.
"I put a lot of weight on what I see," he said. "You can look at all kinds of scouting reports. You can look at videotape. You can look at whatever. I'm telling you there's nothing like being there, watching body reaction, the eye contact or not, the interaction between coach and players, and players and players."
In the pipeline
UK has a strong presence on the USA Select Team, the group of players that will give the Olympic team competition leading into the Olympics this summer. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are among the players on the Select Team.
"Two of the better young players at each of their positions," Colangelo said.
Colangelo acknowledged that Cousins' history of issues (dating from high school and including a request to be traded less than a month into his NBA career) had been considered.
"People make mistakes and they can move on," the USA Basketball chairman said. "He deserves to have a shot and a look-see. He was very anxious to have an opportunity. We're giving him that."
Colangelo said he and USA Basketball insist on a cooperative spirit from players.
"We will not put up with any nonsense," he said, "because that's just how it is."
By making the USA Select Team, Wall and Cousins put themselves in the pipeline to try out for a future Olympic team. Colangelo noted that the 2012 U.S. Olympic team probably will be mostly players who participated in the Beijing Games four years ago and the 2010 World Championships in Istanbul.
Man in the mirror
On May 3, Indiana pronounced its series with Kentucky dead. Then a week later, IU offered a compromise that included the formats preferred by UK (neutral sites) and the Hoosiers (home-and-home).
IU Athletics Director Fred Glass explained the change of course as a reaction to those who lamented the demise of a storied college basketball series. He noted how critics blasted the "knuckleheads" who couldn't make a deal, and how "grown-ups" should intervene to continue the series.
"I actually heard that," Glass said. "I would have to look at myself in the mirror. I didn't want to be the guy to kill the series."
In hopes of reaching a compromise to continue the UK-IU series, Glass offered to pay half of any buyout penalty Kentucky might incur to get out of a pre-existing contract for next season. UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart ultimately said it was too late in the calendar year to buy out an opponent.
Given the ever-rising costs associated with athletics, it was surprising to hear of Indiana's offer.
"Some of the people in my office looked at me cross-eyed," said Glass, who added that he would have considered IU's contribution to a buyout as just another game expense.
Maybe it was just semantics. But when Glass said he did not begrudge Kentucky's desire to play a "non-traditional" schedule, the mind went to Calipari's earlier suggestion that UK basketball's history of innovation meant discontinuing a series fit in with tradition.
"I don't want to say anything that sounds like I'm second-guessing Kentucky," Glass said when asked about calling UK's approach non-traditional. Indiana also sees the value of neutral-site games, he said. "I don't want to be holier than thou."
But, Glass added a moment later, the Kentucky-Indiana series merited special consideration. "A horse of a different color, as they said in The Wizard of Oz," he said.
Earlier this year, Barnhart said Calipari simply did not want to play again at Indiana. Maybe this has to do with the rush of fans onto the court at game's end last season or the IU fans irreverently taunting Calipari in 2009-10 or this past season.
Glass acknowledged the challenge of maintaining "civility" at games. As does UK, IU tries to take down banners and signs that might offend, he said.
For the highly anticipated Kentucky-Indiana game this past season, IU decided it would be safer to allow fans to come onto the court rather than risk a bottleneck of humanity in the stands, he said.
IU made a priority of getting UK players and personnel off the Assembly Hall court, Glass said.
"It was handled very professionally and pursuant to security personnel" direction, he said.
Thou shalt play?
Earlier this month, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas put the presumably dead UK-Indiana series in perspective.
"I understand people want to see the game, and I want to see the game," he said. "But I don't remember that being on the tablets that Moses brought down as the 11th Commandment: that Indiana and Kentucky will play."
'A lot of disappointment'
In case you missed it, Davis sounded less than enthused on The Dan Patrick Show when asked about the New Orleans Hornets winning the NBA lottery.
"A lot of disappointment inside my family," he said on the radio show. "My mom wanted me to go to Charlotte. I have a lot of good friends in Charlotte. At the same time, it wasn't my call. A lot of guys are disappointed, but they have to move on and make the best out of New Orleans."
Of course, Davis grew up in Chicago, where the Charlotte Bobcats' guiding light, Michael Jordan, became an NBA icon.
Since Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski joined USA Basketball as chairman and men's coach in 2005, this country has a 49-1 record in international play.
"I still remember and think about the one loss (pause) to Greece," Colangelo said.
It came in the semifinals of the 2005 World Championships.
"It proves a point," Colangelo said. "Basketball is the ultimate team game, that teams can beat an all-star team on any given night. That's what happened to us."
USA Coach Cal?
Krzyzewski is retiring as USA coach after the London Olympics. This has led to much speculation about his successor. Colangelo, a longtime friend of Calipari, declined an invitation to discuss the possibility of the UK coach taking the reins.
"A lot of conversation about a lot of people is going to come up in the due course of time," Colangelo said. "I have a lot of respect for (Calipari) and the job he's done."
In his statement about the UK-Indiana series, Barnhart said that UK basketball wanted to keep its "non-conference road schedule balanced." IU's proposal for a four-year deal (first two years in Indianapolis, then playing in Lexington, then Bloomington) would not allow UK to maintain schedule balance, he said.
UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said the desired balance means no more than two home-and-home series against non-conference opponents. One played at home and one a "true" road game each season.
With the Cats playing at North Carolina in 2013-14 in the resumption of that series, UK finds itself in a bind. To play Louisville and Indiana in addition to UNC would "unbalance" Kentucky's schedule.
UK's contract to play Louisville expires after next season's game at Louisville. Assuming that series will continue without interruption, U of L and UNC serve as counter-balancing non-conference opponents on a home-and-home basis.