CHICAGO -- The students clapped for Anthony Davis, shouted his name and wore headbands with his signature unibrow as he presented an outdoor basketball court to his former school in Chicago on Friday.
Davis looked (he wore stylish sunglasses) and spoke (he thanked his old school) as a professional athlete might be expected to around students. But the thing is it wasn't too long ago that Davis was an actual schoolmate to some of those same students who cheered him on. Perspectives Charter Schools' Joslin campus consists of sixth through 12th graders, and Davis graduated from it in just 2011.
Davis said Friday he felt much more mature and far removed from his days of towering over everyone as he walked the school's hallways. But being back at Chicago did remind him how much he's grown as a player in such a short period and how much more he believes he can develop in his second NBA season with the New Orleans Pelicans and beyond.
"I think I haven't reached my potential at all," Davis told ESPNChicago.com. "I haven't even scratched the surface at what I'm able to do. I understand that. So I work hard, so I can eventually reach that ceiling. It's fun. They're doing a lot of great things over there with the Pelicans. I figure if I keep working hard, keep having great people surround me, and I can essentially be that guy everyone expects me to be."
Davis' first season wasn't as smooth as he hoped it would be. He ended up missing 18 games due to a variety of injuries, including a concussion, shoulder sprain and MCL sprain. He averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in 64 games as a rookie. He also had an 21.8 PER (John Hollinger's player efficiency rating), which was first among rookies and 15th in the league.
Heading into his second season, one goal for Davis is to stay healthy, but an even bigger one is getting the Pelicans back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. With the offseason additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, Davis thinks that goal is realistic.
"Of course [we believe we can make the playoffs]," Davis said. "We felt that way as well last year. We just got to continue to work hard. We added some pieces. It's going to be fun for us. We're going to be getting together right now, working, trying to figure out some things out, how guys play with each other, guys' tendencies, what they like to do. It's going to be a great run for us this year."
Davis is willing to do anything to achieve that, too. He said he will play more center, after Robin Lopez's offseason departure, if that's what is asked of him.
"Whatever coach [Monty Williams] wants to do, I'm down for whatever," Davis said. "If I have to [play center] I'll be ready. I'll be prepared for it. If it does happen, I probably won't play as much, probably in spurts. If it has to be done, I'm willing to do it.
"[I want to keep] getting better. Make sure I'm a better player. Coming in with a different mindset [this season]. Making sure I'm stronger, a lot of little things, make sure I'm healthy, play the whole 82. Eventually, I want to make the playoffs. I want to go to playoffs this year and go further than we did last year."
Helping students at his old school go further in basketball was what motivated Davis to donate the money for the outdoor basketball court. Davis didn't have an indoor or outdoor court to play on while he was at the Joslin campus. His high school team had to travel off-site for practices and games.
"It was very important [for me to do this]," Davis said. "The biggest thing is that I didn't have an opportunity to have a court when I was here."
Perspectives athletic director Vinay Mullick also surprised Davis by announcing his No. 23 jersey would be retired by the school.
"For them to retire my jersey kind of hit me off guard, kind of hit home to me," Davis said. "That means a lot to get your jersey retired in anything, in high school, college, the pros. That means a lot."