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Thoughts on Darwin Davis

Darwin Davis (11) is Xavier's PG of the future
While the rest of the basketballing world was tuned in to ncaa.com's streaming coverage of the Sweet 16, ESPN3 was offering an opportunity to watch the state basketball championship in Indiana. While I generally choose college hoops over high school in my viewing time, I knew that Xavier commit Darwin "Dee" Davis would be running the point for Bloomington South against Kokomo. Since this would be my last opporunity for live-action Xavier-related ball until next fall, I turned the old internet attenae towards Indiana and hoped for the best.

Davis - for those who don't know and can't read our sidebar - is an undersized but talented point guard. He averaged almost 22 points per game as a senior and shot 70% from the floor. Despite those guady numbers, it was Davis' shooting ability that impressed me the least Saturday night. It should be noted at this juncture that nobody was shooting the ball particularly well on the evening; the teams combined to go 14-56 in the first half and 35-100 from the floor overall. Davis himself was 5-16/1-7/2-2 shooting; his shooting didn't look particularly bad - though he could use more lift on deep jumpers - he just wasn't getting the ball to fall.

Davis (11) needs to avoid being posted
On-ball defense also was not a strong point for Davis. He gave up a lot of ground against the dribble, often allowing his man to get into the paint. If you're 5'10" and having to defend eight feet away from the basket, the result probably isn't going to be pretty at the next level. Despite that, Davis did a good job positioning himself for his six defensive rebounds. Rather than drift towards the bucket while ball watching, he frequently put his backside into an opponent and staked a claim to enough real estate to grab the board for himself.

Ball distribution was a strong point for Davis; against Kokomo's 2-3 zone, he kept the ball moving around the perimeter and frequently fed both high and low posts with good timing and accuracy. In the full court, he did a good job of assessing the whole floor before the time line and being able to see the play develop without having to turn his head. He kept his eyes up-court and distributed with aplomb out of his peripheral vision. It's also worth noting that Davis showed flashes of speed on the ball that took opponents out of the equation in transition.

Kokomo spent a good portion of the game in their 2-3, so it was hard to get a feel for how Davis might fit into Xavier's offensive system. When faced with a man defense, Davis worked off of high ball screens from his bigs, much like the guards at Xavier do. When he got into the lane, he was looking to pass first rather than shoot. On occasions he did get to the rim, he was equally confident with each hand. His size makes his finishing more difficult, and he had a couple of shots blocked pretty solidly. I would imagine that will be a bigger problem on the next level, but he has the coordination and athletecism to improve as a finisher.

Somebody is about to get crossed
What impressed me the most about Davis (and I'm sure impressing me was high on his priority list) was his ball-handling skills. Not only was he very assured on the ball, but his footwork and body control were impeccable. After a made bucket by Kokomo in the first quarter, Bloomington South was inbounding the ball and looking to push the tempo. As Davis received the ball, a Kokomo player has slid up behind him to take the charge when Davis turned up court. As soon as he had the ball, Davis spun back against his momentum and neatly avoided the defender, who picked up a block trying to slide back into the ballhandler's path. In the fourth quarter, Kokomo had cut the South lead to five and was threatening to take the game over. A defender had Davis pinned on the baseline in the left corner, but he took one dribble toward the wing to move the defender's feet and then wrapped the ball around his back skipping past the defender's hanging leg before drawing the defense and passing into the right block for the game-sealing and-one.

Overall, I came away impressed with Darwin Davis. He is an excellent ball-handler with good court vision and game-changing speed. He will be able to make an immediate impact in the full court game, getting easy buckets for himself and his teammates. His penetrate-and-kick style will be welcome on a team that figures to have at least a couple of guys who can knock down open threes with regularity. His ability to adapt to the college game and improve his defense and jump shooting will ultimately decide how far Davis goes as a Muskie.