By: Steve Miller – Staff Writer
Darrell Davis was forced to acclimate fast to collegiate basketball.
As a first-year last season, he didn’t expect to play a prominent role on a Flyers team that was coming off an Elite Eight run. But extenuating circumstances led to a shortened roster, and Davis had to spring into action to help Dayton stay afloat in the Atlantic 10. He came up big.
Now, after two NCAA tournament victories last year and a 45.2% 3-point shooting percentage that led the A-10, Davis is set to make an even bigger impact on Dayton’s men’s basketball team, which was projected by A-10 coaches to win the conference in a preseason poll released two weeks ago.
Davis’ motor, last season and right now, has been his work ethic.
“He was really thrown into the fire last year and had to play a ton of minutes as a freshman, and in some cases wasn’t ready,” head coach Archie Miller said in an interview with Flyer News. “[But] I think he’s a stronger player…I think he’s a more confident player [because of that].”
“Your freshman to sophomore year is the biggest jump,” Miller said of his guard, who he wants to see turn into a more physical, complete player this year.
“I need to gain weight, so I need to eat a lot and maintain my weight from Monday to Sunday,” Davis said. “Archie told me that if I want to be better, I have to [put in the work] in the offseason. So I focused on being more aggressive this year, and trying to maintain my nutrition.”
Just like when he was called on last season, Davis has worked hard and worked often.
“He’s a gym rat. I mean, he’s always the first in to shoot and he’s clearly one of the last ones to leave,” Miller said. “He loves the game and loves being there with [teammates] working with him.”
In order to add an element to his game during the season, though, Davis had to expand his repertoire on the practice court beyond shooting the ball.
“That consists of me coming off ball screens, getting to my teammates, making plays, getting to the basket, pulling up for a jump shot,” Davis said of his desire to be more aggressive. “Just not sitting in the corner waiting for somebody to give me the ball.”
“The thing that he has to get a little better at this year is show that he can play with the ball in his hands and make better decisions,” Miller said. “Not just be a transporter, but make the right play. He’s done that in practice. He’s been able to get to the basket a lot more. He’s been able to get fouled a lot more.”
Even if Davis does turn into a more dynamic guard however, don’t expect him to take any fewer long-range shots.
“I think Darrell is going to make a killing in transition, as all of our guys do from behind the line who can shoot the ball,” Miller said. “But I think in the half court, [we will] put him in situations where he can get a couple shots off.”
Davis, of course, is continuing to perfect his forte.
“After practice, we have to make 75 three’s,” Davis said of a normal shooting routine. “And I take about 102 shots [to make 75].”
In addition to his physical presence, Davis will also add a leadership role, mentoring the Flyers who will take the floor for the first time.
“Archie tells me a lot in practice to lead the freshmen because [last year] I was in their position, and I know what they’re going through,” Davis said. “I accept that role…to lead them on the court and off it.”
He added that his desire to work and improve extends into the classroom.
“I think we’ve already seen the best of Darrell here in his offseason and in his preseason in terms of his maturity level,” Miller said of his guard’s intangibles. “In both on the court while he’s working and off the court.”
The team, though, has already begun to see the on-court dividends of Davis’ hard work.
“I think you see a more complete guy—a guy that can get to the foul line a little more, a guy that can get to the rim a little more,” Miller said. “Defensively, he’s much more experienced and knows what he’s doing, you won’t see as many mistakes. Freshman to sophomore is always the biggest jump and we’ve already started to see him make that jump.”
Davis, almost salivating at the thought of the upcoming season, is clearly ready to embrace his new role.
“I’m ready to play—that’s all,” he said. “I can’t wait for the Red Scare to be out there cheering for us too.”
Photo of sophomore guard Darrell Davis driving up the floor at the Red-Blue Scrimmage by Multimedia Editor Chris Santucci.