Dee Davis tries to calm a clearly confused Travis Taylor.
If you've stepped outside at any point in time during the last month or so, there's no doubt in your mind that summer is in full swing. While that is wonderful for people who like recruiting news, baseball, and a slow, painful death by dehydration and heat stroke, it does mean things are a little slow in terms of actual basketball news to report.
What it doesn't mean is that the Xavier players are sitting around twiddling their thumbs or updating their "Countdown Until Basketball Season" charts. Instead, they're playing summer ball, hitting the weights, and participating in skill workouts. That means we're bringing back out critically acclaimed Summer Camp series, which takes a look at where Xavier's returning players lay skill wise at the end of last season and what progress we're hoping to see out of them beginning this November. Any volunteers to get us started? I see that hand, Dee Davis...
Despite being pocket-sized and pulling down 11 minutes per game, Davis managed to make an impression during his freshman campaign. His line of 1.9/0.6/0.8 with 0.6 steals per game on .342/.293/.500 shooting isn't much to write home about, but Davis was able to put his other skills into play for the team. His A:TO was better than 1:1, which is a good sign for a small freshman guard. He was a persistent and pesky defender on the ball, which allowed Coach Mack to use him on opponents' ball-handlers without fear that he'd get baked. He also showed a willingness to put his body on the line to draw a charge and flashed the guts of a burglar in burying two huge threes against Lehigh.
Getting bigger should be near the top of Davis' priority list this summer. While he showed an ability to pressure a ball-handler without getting bullied last year, that kind of effort can wear a body down over the course of increased minutes in a long season. The same goes for the other end of the court as well. Tu Holloway was strong on the ball, which enabled him to get to the high ball screen in Xavier's offense. If Coach Mack is going to continue to use that scheme (which he is), Davis would do well to add some strength to his quickness off the dribble to be able to get to the screener on a consistent basis. Dee looked like he was carved from wood last year; he just needs more timber on his frame.
Shooting is also a concern. While he is able to knock down an open jumper with time to set up and load, it's not clear that he's going to be able to enjoy that amount of space on a regular basis. Davis' shooting mechanics were solid last year, but he needs to keep the ball higher in order to quicken up his release. It's hard to establish a rhythm when you're getting two shot attempts per game, so I wouldn't worry too much about Davis' abysmal shooting line from last year. With more looks and more comfort on the floor, those numbers will rise this season. How much will depend on the work he puts in over the summer.
Being able to run a court is an area in which Davis made significant and visible strides during the year last season. While he was as impressive as any Muskie in posting 10/3/6 in the spanking Oral Roberts handed Xavier the first time out after the UC game, he faded back into a deferential role when Tu and Lyons returned. He resurfaced in spurts late on in the year, posting a lone turnover in 15 minutes against Richmond and playing 29 very good minutes against Lehigh in the tournament. Continuing to grow more comfortable directing traffic will be a step in the right direction for Dee this year.
You'll know it's working when: Davis grabs the ball from the word go and forces talented freshman Semaj Christon to fight his way onto the court. Christon is an insanely talented point guard, but Davis has a year in the system already under his belt and has already proven himself as a tenacious defender. General consensus is that Davis is going to hand over the reins to Christon at some point in time, but Dee has the skills to make a spirited defense of his position. If he's holding his own physically against older players, knocking down open shots, and running the court with aplomb, he'll be Xavier's guy.
You should worry if you see: Davis go into turtle mode and defer to everyone else on the floor. He doesn't need to be the one taking the most shots, but he should be the player deciding who is. If Davis settles into a secondary role to Christon and whoever ends up at the two for X, he'll have missed his chance to take a starting role by the throat. With the young backcourt talent coming into Xavier, he may not get another opportunity.