Davis has unique mentors on New Orleans staff

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer 

Not many NBA teams have a 6-foot-11, 250-pound man on their coaching staff who isn’t far removed from his playing days. Although the New Orleans Hornets added former University of San Diego center and overseas pro Kevin Hanson to their basketball operations staff well before they selected Anthony Davis at the top of the 2012 NBA Draft, that move will ultimately result in a rare opportunity for the No. 1 pick. During 2012-13 Hornets practices, Davis will get to go head-to-head against someone who is actually taller and heavier than the 6-10, 220-pounder.

Hanson, who came to the Hornets from the San Antonio Spurs, is just 32 years old, a former professional player in Argentina and Germany. As a result, he’s able to replicate the in-game experience that Davis will encounter in the league. “Because of my size, I give (Hornets bigs) the look of an NBA body every day,” Hanson explained. “I’m not as athletic as (active NBA players), but I have the length and size on me to help with the workouts. I’m trying to get them used to the physicality of playing in the NBA.” It won’t be unusual this season to see Hanson giving Davis a hands-on tutorial – literally – on how to use leverage to hold position under the rim, or to demonstrate correct positioning of elbows and knees while defending in the low post, for example. The coach believes that experience is invaluable and more closely replicates game action, as opposed to a frontcourt player practicing his moves against “air.”

“That’s my style. I like to get physical with them,” Hanson said. “It adds so much to the workout, going against a live body. I defend them in certain ways where they have to make reads. It’s not just, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this move or that move.’ They have to make reads and adjust based on what I’m doing as the defender. I think that adds to the effect of the workout.” In Hornets director of athletic development Carlos Daniel, the team has another 30-something who was running up and down the court in high-level basketball leagues not long ago.

The powerful and athletic 6-foot-7 Daniel was a standout at Washington State before turning pro. He played overseas and was chosen as an All-Star in the CBA in 2004-05. Daniel often references his own playing experience when dealing with current Hornets, giving him a unique perspective, particularly with power forwards and centers – the guys who do most of the dirty work in the paint.

“Just knowing what it feels like (to be a player) helps,” Daniel said. “To play (one of the frontcourt positions), there are certain things you have to be able to do. When I look at guys, I say, ‘What does he do well?’ Then I try to accentuate that. If a guy’s a quick jumper, I try to make him stronger so he can use that ability repetitively on a consistent basis. Being able to notice things like that is really what helps me from my playing days."