Nate Oats may see the child struggling. Nobody wanted to speak about it. The adjustment was apparent for everybody concerned. That did not make it any simpler.
A very gifted athlete – perhaps one of the best vertical athlete in all the 2022 NBA Draft – Davison had arrived for his freshman season in Tuscaloosa from Letohatchee, Ala., Inhabitants 1,300, give or take. The aggressive degree of highschool basketball in his residence space was hardly ever, if ever, sufficient to push Davison out of his consolation zone. As a junior, he averaged 30.4 factors, 12 rebounds and 5 assists per recreation. As a senior, he went for 32.4, 10 and 4.7. He dominated, and he largely did so on autopilot.
This isn’t how issues work within the SEC, or in faculty basketball extra broadly, and if most younger gamers face a big instant adjustment in aggressive high quality and depth once they first arrive on campus, Davison stepped right into a chasm. “He may go at 50 p.c and dominate the vast majority of his highschool video games,” Oats, Alabama‘s head coach, mentioned. “This was the primary time in his life that he truly needed to actually observe exhausting and convey it day by day.” It is an adjustment that Davison struggled with for a lot of the season, although not sufficient to discourage him from staying within the draft after a just-OK freshman yr – and never sufficient to discourage the Boston Celtics from choosing him with the 53rd decide.
It will likely be a bit thriller as to why he was picked, regardless of one comparatively shaky faculty season beneath his belt: athleticism. At 6-foot-2, Davison is an electrical mover and leaper, answerable for as many jaw-dropping one-off highlights as any participant in faculty basketball final season. As a pure rim attacker, a downhill dribbler with a head of steam, there have been few gamers extra scary for defenders. You may see this dimension being unleashed barely extra successfully with NBA spacing – Alabama spreads the ground as a lot as any high-profile faculty workforce, however no faculty group shoots it in addition to many NBA groups do to restrain the influence of inside defensive assist. When he is working on the rim, Davison is an explosive pressure.
However the adjustment from small-town highschool hoops to an elite aggressive degree confirmed up in virtually each different aspect of Davison’s recreation. He struggled with ballhandling and decision-making. “He’s in all probability extra of a combo guard than a degree guard,” Oats mentioned. “He is passer, however he had some points with smaller guards getting up beneath him.” Which is the way you submit a 29 p.c help charge, which is nice, but in addition a 29 p.c turnover charge, which isn’t so nice. He additionally struggled taking pictures, notably from the perimeter; he was serviceable on catch-and-shoot alternatives, however off the dribble, if he wasn’t dunking, good issues normally weren’t occurring.
“The deal with’s received to get the fighter, as a result of he can actually move,” Oats mentioned. “However his deal with’s not tight sufficient to the place he can take care of the man in entrance of him and have the ability to make the passes anyway. And he labored exhausting on his shot. He is shot it nicely in exercises. Now he is received to show he can shoot constantly within the recreation. ”
These are massive issues for an ostensible level guard (or combo guard or no matter) to must develop in the beginning of his skilled profession. The excellent news is that Davison is a employee. He is quiet and unassuming – he isn’t an apparent “he received that canine in him” candidate essentially – and he is additionally a youngster, and youngsters have a tendency to want extra time. (Defensively, Davison usually seems like a youngster. He can block anyone’s shot, however his lateral defending will be messy.) Nonetheless, Oats noticed a participant that, when confronted with the completely different necessities of a better degree and no small quantity of strain to succeed, quietly determined to work tougher than he had previously.
It is a promising attribute for a participant who performed nicely towards one of the best groups on Alabama’s schedule final season, and who drew early NBA curiosity for good purpose, but in addition one whose flaws prevented an in any other case can’t-miss athletic prospect from being greater than a second-round flyer. “He’s prepared to work, and there’s a ton of pure upside,” Oats mentioned. “He is received a whole lot of pure basketball capacity.” The largest adjustment of all is but to return.
(Picture: Marvin Gentry / USA At the moment)