NEW ORLEANS -- This is no April Fool's joke.
Within days, maybe weeks, University of Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis is expected to announce that he will make himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft.
And with a little luck -- that is, a lottery ball or two bouncing the right way -- college basketball's national player of the year could be playing for the New Orleans Hornets next season.
It could happen.
At the moment, there's about a one in six chance that the downtrodden Bees (who own the third worst record in the NBA at 13-39 with 14 games remaining) could claim his rights. And, after watching him up close and personal Saturday in the Wildcats' 69-61 victory against in-state rival Louisville in the NCAA national semifinals before 75,000 strong at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Hornets would be fortunate to get him.
This 19-year-old tall drink of water is already good and will only get better.
Against Louisville, he became just the second player in Final Four history to score at least 15 points (18), grab 10 rebounds (14) and block five shots (5).
Danny Manning is the other, pulling off a similar feat for the Kansas Jayhawks enroute to a national championship in 1988. Ironically, Manning, now a Jayhawks' assistant who recently was named head coach at Tulsa, sat courtside Saturday awaiting his team's national semifinal game against Ohio State.
"The difference (today), quite frankly, was Anthony Davis,'' said Cardinals Coach Rick Pitino, who predicted that Davis would be the first player taken in the June draft. "When you're playing against Bill Russell at the pro level, you realize why the Celtics won 11 World Championships.
"When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why the (Wildcats) are so good. Not that their other players aren't, but he's so much a factor.''
Davis stands 6-feet-10 but his wing span gives him a bigger presence, enabling him to swat shots, swoop down on the basket and make opponents squirm inside the paint.
"His length is incredible,'' Pitino said.
"He can change every shot,'' Cardinals' senior guard Chris Smith said.
Davis increased his season total to 180 blocked shots, second most for a freshman in NCAA history and tied for 8th among all players going into Monday night's championship game against the Jayhawks.
"Anthony did what he's done all year -- blocked four or five shots, scored around the basket, had a couple offensive tip-ins,'' UK Coach John Calipari said of Davis' performance against Louisville.
Davis converted seven of eight shots from the floor and four of six from the free throw for a game-high 18 points. In addition to a game-high 14 boards, he also had two assists and one steal. At game's end, he dribbled out the clock, took out his mouthpiece and heaved the ball into the air.
"This is my stage,'' he shouted above the din.
The Superdome will be his stage again Monday night.
If the lottery balls bounce the right way in late May, Davis' stage will move across the street to the New Orleans Arena for many NBA seasons to come.
That's no joke.
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