Anthony Davis, Darius Miller excited to make return to Kentucky
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
When Anthony Davis and Darius Miller return to Rupp Arena for Saturday’s preseason game vs. the Washington Wizards, reminders of their college basketball careers at the University of Kentucky will be everywhere. In the stands, many of Miller’s family and relatives will be in attendance, even though the Kentucky native won’t be able to play due to a foot injury. High above the court, Davis and Miller will see a blue and white banner hanging from the rafters that reads “NCAA CHAMPION 2012” – a permanent symbol in Lexington of the Wildcats’ title-winning team.
The second-year New Orleans Pelicans players – who coincidentally captured their 2012 NCAA crown in New Orleans, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – were understandably excited this summer to learn about the Lexington preseason game. In addition to Saturday’s game, the Wildcats are holding their annual “Big Blue Madness” event on Friday night, allowing Davis and Miller to attend the program’s season-launching bash.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Davis said of not initially believing the good news when he was informed of the Lexington game. “I thought it was a joke at first, until I started doing media and promotional things for it. I’m excited to go back. It’s going to be fun to play back in Rupp Arena in a real game situation. I can’t wait to get down there.”
“I was pretty happy about it,” said Miller, who grew up in Maysville, Ky., about 65 miles from Lexington. “At that time I thought I’d be playing, but I’m still pretty excited to go home and see family and friends.”
It will also be a chance for Davis, Miller and Pelicans teammate Tyreke Evans to visit with their college coach, John Calipari (Evans played for Calipari at the University of Memphis in 2008-09, the coach’s second-to-last season with the Tigers). “Coach Cal” now boasts a legion of former players on NBA rosters – for example, entering the 2012-13 season, there were 15 players who were college teammates of Miller in the league.
“I think he does a great job of preparing guys for the next level,” said Miller, a four-year college player. “He does it year after year. He gets very talented players. His whole staff does a great job. He really helped everybody on our team. I really appreciate what he’s done not only for us, but the whole program of Kentucky, with me being from Kentucky.”
“I recommend him to any guy who wants to get better,” said Davis, who left Kentucky after one season to become the NBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick. “Whether it’s one year, two, three or four, he’s definitely going to get you better while you’re there.”
Davis noted that the Kentucky program’s annual “Big Blue Madness” event draws a sellout crowd of 24,000 fans. A charity game in September featuring former Wildcats, including Davis, also was a standing-room-only affair. The 6-foot-10 power forward expects a similarly packed house when the Pelicans and Wizards take the court Saturday at 6 p.m. Central (7 p.m. Eastern time in Lexington). The Wizards’ roster features its own No. 1 overall draft pick from UK, point guard John Wall.
“I guarantee 24,000 for our game,” Davis said. “They love Kentucky basketball and guys returning (to Lexington to play). I’m excited to go.”
“I can’t wait,” Miller said. “I think it will be a great time for everybody. It will be a great atmosphere for everybody playing. It will be a fun place to play.”