Coach K: Anthony Davis is emerging NBA star (1/23/14)

Anthony Davis soars in for a two-handed dunk during Monday's win at Memphis

Coach K: Anthony Davis is emerging NBA star

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

After a bit of a dry spell, a talented crop of young American big men has emerged in recent years, including the likes of Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Detroit center Andre Drummond and Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski reserves his most glowing praise, however, for 20-year-old Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans’ promising second-year standout.

“It feels good,” Davis said of being chosen for USA Basketball’s 28-player pool. “It’s been a lot of hard work all season to get better and improve my game. USA took notice of it. I’m going to keep working, keep getting better and show them that I can compete and play for them.”

Krzyzewski noted that he’s been watching New Orleans games and Davis whenever he can this season, despite his hectic schedule as Duke University’s head coach. What he’s seen is a breakthrough second-year player averaging 20.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Davis’ recent numbers are even better, including a 31-point, 17-rebound game vs. Golden State, a 28-point, 14-rebound outing at Dallas and 27 and 10 in a win at Memphis this week.

Davis is a legitimate candidate for NBA Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a possible NBA All-Star selection when Western Conference reserves are announced on Jan. 30. Although the University of Kentucky product and 2012 NCAA champion has made a significant jump across the board in offensive production this season, Davis’ rare ability at the other end may be even more valuable to the USA team.

“For this group, he can be a great rim protector for us, and an amazing ball-screen defense big guy, because of his mobility,” Krzyzewski said. “He can step in and if necessary, even switch and guard a number of players.”

During Davis’ invaluable trip to the 2012 Olympics in London, he scored the vast majority of his points on dunks and layups, often capitalizing on the openings his veteran teammates created by drawing defensive attention. Krzyzewski recognizes that when Davis is surrounded by so many ultra-talented players, his prowess at converting shots around the basket is a much-needed trait.

“(His) offensive game continues to improve,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to run, and he can really run the court well and finish. He’s just a terrific young man. He also is only 20 years old. He’ll be 21 in March. He’s a star and he’s going to be a great, great player.”