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SI FOR KIDS
All in the family
Pacers' Antonio Davis taking rookie Harrington under his wing ... literally
Posted: Tuesday December 01, 1998 08:17 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (CNN/SI) -- Al Harrington won the Naismith Award as the top high school basketball player in the nation last season. Colleges drooled, but Harrington passed on all of them and decided to go straight to the NBA where the Indiana Pacers made him their first pick in the draft.
Due to the lockout, there are no NBA games, but Al's still in Indiana living with his Pacers teammate-to-be Antonio Davis, his wife and two children. A scene he hardly envisioned when he turned pro.
"I didn't think I was going to be allowed to move in with another family," said the 18-year-old rookie. "I definitely didn't think that I wasn't going to be playing at this time."
The Pacer players have been holding their own practices during the lockout, which is what brought Harrington to Indiana.
"He basically said he didn't have anywhere to stay," recalled Davis. "The guy he was staying with was going out of town. He didn't want to stay wherever he was staying. So immediately I was like, 'yeah come and stay with me.'"
Harrington said Davis welcomed him with open arms.
"It seemed like he knew me. He said, 'Oh, no problem kid. Let me just call my wife and let her know that you're coming.'"
Antonio's wife Kendra, mother of two, has a slightly different recollection.
"You know after having twins I vowed that I would never do this again, and then we got one who was 18," said Kendra Davis. "So at first I was a little cautious ... hesitant maybe. Taking an 18-year-old in this day and age I had no idea what we were going to get but he has been a complete blessing."
Well not quite. There was the time "Baby Al" as the Davis' call him, stayed out all night and didn't call home.
"That's like our rule," said Kendra. "You're going to be away or if you're coming home late you have to call and he didn't call. So he got grounded a little bit."
"We have to know where he is," said Antonio. "I mean he's a grown man in a way, but ...
That care has demonstrated itself daily and developed into real affection.
"I think there's such a fine line, said the Pacers' power forward. "You want to give him freedom to learn things, but I don't want to see him hurt. I don't want anything to happen to him and that means anything you can think of that's bad. I just don't want it to happen to him."
Thirty-year-old Antonio now has an 18-year-old teammate to take under his wing, introduce to other Pacer veterans and help ease the enormous transition from high school to the pros. Davis is thinks this transition will be a very successful one.
"A lot of people debate whether or not an 18-year-old could come out of high school and play in the NBA and it is tough. But if you have you're head on right and you have good people around you, anything could happen. I just hope that everybody realizes you just have to give this young kid a shot because he's for real."
Harrington is receiving valuable off-court training as well.
"Just being around him you see how much attention he gets and you know how he acts towards fans," said Harrington. "And no matter what, no matter what we're doing, if somebody asks him for an autograph he'll do it. If someone asks him about the lockout he'll talk to them about it. You know just showing me how to be a genuine person."
And back at the Davis home there is another mentor Al can always call on to help him navigate through choppy water.
"We've just talked about everything," said Kendra. "Everything from interviews, what's good for him to do now, what's not, girls ... everything."
Antonio adds that though the youngster is under his supervision, he and his wife are trying not to overstep his boundaries.
"I try hard to not sound like a father and I think my wife tries hard not to sound like his mother," said Antonio. "But, in some cases we need to do that."
Regardless of how brilliant a professional basketball player Al Harrington may become, the sure thing is that he will never forget the Davis' -- a family that opened their door and their hearts to him.
"The moment I knew he was a keeper was the day I came in and he and the kids were making happy face cinnamon rolls," Kendra Davis recalled. "He cleans his room and he has nanny-like qualities. We're keeping him as long as he wants to stay."
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