Anthony Davis said he told himself not to get nervous when his moment in the spotlight at the National Basketball Association draft arrived.
“You just sit there at night, waiting on the day to come,” he said after becoming the top overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets last night. “When I was at that table and David Stern said ‘New Orleans is on the clock -- five minutes,’ I started shaking. It just hit me right then and there.”
Stern, the league’s commissioner, soon greeted the 19-year- old Davis at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, signaling the start of a career that includes a guaranteed minimum salary of $4.3 million next season, potential for millions more in endorsements and the pressure of lifting a team that had a Western Conference-low 21 wins in 2011-12.
Davis, one of a record six University of Kentucky players drafted last night, found the spotlight quickly as a college freshman in leading his team to the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship as a freshman in April. He was chosen the Associated Press Player of the Year, averaging 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game.
Davis was a shooting guard as a high school freshman before a growth spurt turned him into a forward. He enters the NBA at 6-foot-10 and said last night that he was taking his time in signing endorsement deals and a contract with a shoe company.
Those companies will now face the pressure of judging whether Davis has the ability to handle all of his responsibilities as the top pick, according to Matt Delzell, group account director in the celebrity endorsement practice at the Marketing Arm, which measures celebrity status in the U.S.
“Generally, big guys are harder to market, mostly because they aren’t relatable,” Delzell said in an e-mail. “Kids on the playground and kids in the suburbs can imagine playing shooting guard and being 6-foot-3. It’s hard for a kid to imagine being 6-10.”
Davis and his supporters already are banking on one of his physical characteristics. They trademarked the phrases “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow” this month to capitalize on his distinctive run-together eyebrows.
“My parents and agent came at me with the idea about trademarking,” Davis said last night at a news conference. “They said, ‘There’s no point in you having it and other guys making money when it’s yours,’ so I thought it was a great idea.”
It signals a comfort with the spotlight that Davis says he learned during his lone year at the Lexington, Kentucky, school.
“Especially the six who played, we hit the spotlight all the time and I think it really prepared me,” Davis said.
His college coach, John Calipari, said Davis is a bright kid who will handle the business side of being a top professional basketball player well. Calipari himself trademarked the term “Refuse to Lose” several years ago.
“I told him, ‘I didn’t know I was teaching you the business side,”’ Calipari said in an interview. “He learned well from me.”
It was the first time six players from the same school were selected since the draft was shortened to two rounds in 1989.
Guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went second overall to the Charlotte Bobcats, joining with Davis to become the first pair of college teammates selected with the top two picks in the history of the draft.
Other Wildcats taken during the 60-pick draft were Terrence Jones, 18th to the Houston Rockets; Marquis Teague, 29th to the Chicago Bulls; Doron Lamb, 42nd to the Milwaukee Bucks; and Darius Miller, 46th, joining Davis on the Hornets.
The Washington Wizards selected Florida guard Bradley Beal with the third overall pick, followed by Syracuse guard Dion Waiters to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kansas forward Thomas Robinson to the Sacramento Kings.
Both New York teams were without a first-round draft pick. The Nets, who played in the Prudential Center last season and are moving to a new arena in Brooklyn beginning with the 2012-13 campaign, drafted Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor with the 41st pick and Turkish forward Ilkan Karaman with the 47th.
The Knicks chose Kostas Papanikolaou of Greece at No. 48, drawing boos from fans at the arena who weren’t familiar with the forward.
The Hornets also drafted Duke guard Austin Rivers with the 10th pick. New Orleans finished the lockout-shortened season with a 21-45 record, tied with the Cavaliers for the third-worst mark in the NBA behind the Bobcats (seven wins) and the Wizards (20). The Hornets have reached the second round of the playoffs once in 10 years.
Davis, who weighs 220 pounds (100 kilograms), said he needs to get physically stronger to compete at the pro level.
He’ll need to succeed as an NBA player before becoming a marketing superstar, said Matt Fleming, a senior manager at the Dallas-based Marketing Arm.
“If he performs at the game-changing level that some NBA experts are predicting, and he’s able to turn New Orleans into a winner, the deals will come,” Fleming said in an e-mail. “Winning is a key variable.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com.