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Scott Howard-Cooper

Anthony Davis is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the Draft.
University of Kentucky Athletics

Hornets, and the Big Easy, await projected top pick Davis

Posted Jun 8 2012 10:22AM

CHICAGO -- What do you know about New Orleans?

Anthony Davis did not hesitate.

"That I won a national championship there," he said. "Other than that, I really don't know much about New Orleans, except maybe like [Hurricane] Katrina and everything like that. But who says I'll go to New Orleans? I could go anywhere else."

First of all, everyone says the Kentucky power forward will go to New Orleans with the No. 1 pick in the June 28 draft. Everyone.

But, yes. He knows about Katrina, the killer 2005 hurricane that came to underline the spirit of an entire region. The city, and its NBA franchise, have been through years of instability ever since.

The franchise, the Hornets, could have left. The face of the franchise, Chris Paul, did leave via an offseason trade with the Clippers. The team was on the market, then off the market, then finally sold.

"Yeah," Davis said. "It's a lot going on."

Davis doesn't have the luxury to show up with the ordinary pressure of the No. 1 pick. Lead a team out of the tall grass (the Hornets were 21-45 in 2011-12) and eventually back to the playoffs. Play as a superstar for 10 years or be rated a bust. Big deal.

Try being the guy who has to be one of the leading forces, and certainly the most visible factor, in the NBA finally becoming anchored in town. At age 19. In what, in 2012-13, would have been his sophomore season at the University of Kentucky.

"I just want to be whatever the organization wants me to be, whether that's the face of the franchise or just another guy on the team," Davis said. "I just want to do what I have to do to make my team. I'll try to win a championship if I go there."

He understands the bigger point. The best prospect in years means so much more than that to the Hornets and to the city.

"Leadership, all that," Davis said.

Exactly. Leadership. Connecting with a hurting, recovering community. Paul embraced the role in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, until his December 2011 trade to the Clippers opened the gates on the youth movement that led the Hornets here.

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"I would love to be that guy," Davis said. "But you're always going to need help. You can't do it by yourself. That's what everybody stresses -- you never can do it by yourself. You're always going to need help regardless, from the veterans and the guys who have been there already. I would love to be that guy. But there's no telling."

His personality and maturity have won many admirers. One Kentucky teammate, Terrence Jones, said, "He has a great personality" and "Great friend, great teammate and a brother." And even though Davis does not flash an outgoing personality, he speaks up about wanting to help the Gulf Coast recovery.

It is an unusual spot for a prospect who will have to invest a load of energy just to reach his basketball potential. He's being asked to consider the implications of playing for a city still suffering the aftereffects of a natural disaster that took place when he was 12, and taking over for a beloved superstar who was traded when Davis was just a college freshman.

It may not be fair, but it is his reality.

"I don't think there's any pressure," Davis said. "I've just got to go out there and have fun. They always tell me there's no pressure, no anything. My family and coaches tell me there's no pressure, just go out there and have fun. Like you said, New Orleans has been through a lot. To get the No. 1 pick and the 10th pick means a lot to them.

"They want to choose their pick wisely so they can build this franchise that they've been building for a long time since the hurricane hit. Whenever I do get there, I definitely want to help any way possible that I can."

He knows.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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