Da'Kquan Davis (above, in 2019) is playing out his final 10 games for Arcadia before going to D-I North Texas next year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Da’Kquan Davis has never lived outside of Philadelphia.
Growing up, he enjoyed the weekend trips to AAU tournaments up and down the East Coast, but he eventually always had to go back home to Philly. In May 2021, though, the Division III All-American guard’s chapter at Arcadia will wrap up and he’ll take the 1,519-mile trip to Denton, Tex., where he will continue his basketball career at the University of North Texas.
From the freshman team in high school to becoming a collegiate All-American, Davis’ basketball journey is about to take on its biggest challenge yet.
“I’ve lived in Philly all my life,” Davis said. “So, it is definitely going to be a change. But, to be honest, with everything that is going on in the city, I feel like it is best for me to get as far away as possible...I’m ready for a change.”
The commitment to play for head coach Grant McCasland and the Mean Green has featured a long and enduring road. And there’s no doubt that Davis has earned each and every opportunity throughout his basketball career thus far.
The Mount Airy native was first introduced to Roman Catholic basketball during a 2012 summer league game going into his eighth grade year, through his close friend since he was ten years old: future D-I forward Paul Newman, a freshman and member of the JV team at the time.
“There was a game where we were short a guy. It was up at Holy Ghost, and we needed a body and we just threw him in there,” said Chris McNesby, Roman’s coach from 2008-16. “From that point on, he didn’t want to stop being around it. He kept showing up. I think we kept giving him a jersey. It was like, 'Fine, you can just play.' That was the introduction to Da’Kquan.”
Despite making a positive impact on McNesby, Davis wasn’t a priority middle schooler for the Cahillites, who, like all private schools in the state, insist they don’t recruit, yet somehow manage to have a working knowledge base of all the area’s top future high schoolers.
Davis enrolled at Roman in the fall of 2013 and played on the freshman team, where he began to open eyes. While no official statistics exist from that season, Davis said he averaged 27 points per game, and McNesby didn’t dispute that number.
“He could really score, that was his thing,” McNesby said. “Freshman year, just getting reports and watching the games, he was putting up big numbers, so you knew he could score.”
From that point on is when Davis knew he could potentially go somewhere with this basketball thing, and he began taking it more seriously.
Tenth grade saw Davis jump right up to the varsity squad, joining a powerhouse squad that included future D-I players in Newman (Bucknell), Tony Carr (Penn State), Nazeer Bostic (Penn State/St. Peter’s), TreVaughn Wilkerson (Hartford), and Gemil Holbrook (Rider).
Davis (above, in Jan. 2017) moved into the starting lineup as a senior at Roman. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Being 5-foot-10 with a 160-pound frame, Davis knew he wasn’t going to be that guy at the varsity level scoring 27 points per game, like he did on the freshman team. He was a self described “role guy” and knew what he had to do on the floor to help the team out.
Early during his sophomore year of high school, a few weeks after getting the spot on the varsity team, Davis was thrown into the fire, getting the start up at the Broome County (N.Y.) Stop-DWI Holiday Classic, and playing big minutes as the Cahillites took down three talented teams to win the tournament title.
“I realized, well, if I am getting the start, it goes to show that I am the next man up,” Davis said. “Then I knew I just had to keep putting work in.”
“He really just made shots that weekend, that was the beginning part of his sophomore year, and he was just a valuable player for us,” McNesby said. “Da’Kquan could really stretch the floor by making shots, and playing with Tony, you saw this kid has a piece in this thing because he obviously can help us in (that) area.”
Davis spent the majority of his 10th and 11th grade seasons as a 3-point specialist off the bench, playing a supporting role to the two-time Catholic League and PIAA state champions, averaging around 5 ppg each season.
His senior year, after the graduation of the eventual Division I prospects in Newman, Bostick, Carr, and Lamar Stevens (Penn State), Davis more than doubled his scoring to 12.3 points per game, and was the second-leading scorer on the team.
Roman wasn’t able to pull off the three-peat, losing in the 2017 PCL semifinals to a Neumann-Goretti squad led by another deep group of D-I prospects including Quade Green (Kentucky/Washington) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Villanova).
Though he showed he was a quality guard and certainly a college prospect, he was clearly not on the same level as some of the others on his team, including sophomore forward Seth Lundy, another future Penn Stater, or junior guard Allen Betrand (Towson/Rhode Island), or freshman sensation Lynn Greer III (prepping at IMG Academy). Coming out of high school, Davis was “a perfect Division II/Division III tweener,” current Arcadia head coach Adam Van Zelst said.
Though Davis at the time had been hoping for the Division I schools to come his way, he came to realize that wasn’t the reality for him at the end. It came down to several D-III programs all hot on his tail; Davis chose to play for Arcadia and then-head coach Justin Scott.
“Just being able to get a Division III opportunity, and play, as well as grow my education, and further my basketball game, I felt like it was the right choice at the time for me,” Davis said. “I just had to go and make the most of it, and it put me in the situation I am in today.”
Davis found immediate success at Arcadia, including winning the MAC Commonwealth Rookie of the Year during his freshman campaign, averaging 14.2 points per game on 47.2% shooting from the field. He won MAC Player of the Year, as well as the MAC Commonwealth Championship, in his sophomore season, averaging 16.2 points per game while guiding the Knights to a 23-6 record and the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, as well as its first NCAA win.
After entering his name in the transfer portal after his sophomore season, Davis heard from a few scholarship schools, but ultimately decided to return to Arcadia for his junior season. With stats counting this time, he averaged 27.0 points per game and was named a Division III All-American, becoming the programs all-time leading scorer with 1,571 total points.
After his standout junior season, with COVID throwing the entire college landscape out of whack, Davis entered his name into the transfer pool again, this time with some more Division I options. North Texas, as well as Drexel, were in contact with the strong bodied guard.
Davis was contacted by coach Jareem Dowlings, an assistant at North Texas with Philadelphia ties, and communicated with the Arcadia standout about having an opportunity to play at North Texas during the 2021-22 season. Dowlings preached that there was going to be a lot of roster turnover, and the opportunity for playing time would be presented to him.
After weighing his options and talking with people in his corner, Davis committed to North Texas.
“I felt like it was the best opportunity for me. The coaches there on the staff were just honest with me,” Davis said. “They told me that it was going to be a big jump from Division III to Division I, but I would be able to come there and make the most of the opportunity.”
North Texas competes in the C-USA, and is coming off of three straight 20-plus-win seasons under McCasland, who is in his fourth year currently leading the program. The Mean Green are currently 10-6 (6-2 CUSA) this year. With six seniors on the 2020-21 roster, there will be opportunities for Davis to earn some of those minutes lost to graduation next season if those players chose not to exercise their NCAA-allowed extra year of eligibility.
“Where I come from, that is really all I could ask for, an opportunity. Every opportunity that I have been given, I have made the most of it, and that’s all I could ask for.” Davis said.
Davis hasn’t been able to visit North Texas, but has done virtual tours of the school's facilities, and plans on going down to Texas in May after his time at Arcadia is all wrapped up. He also said has been able to watch a lot of his future teams’ games on ESPN+, and has been studying film to be mentally prepared once he gets down there.
In the meantime, though, Davis has one last dance at Arcadia, with a shortened ten-game MAC season beginning February 11 against Delaware Valley University.
“For now I am just focused on being at Arcadia for the time being,” Davis said. “North Texas is going to be great and everything, but right now, I am looking to win another championship for Arcadia and I feel like me and my team are growing towards that, living in the moment, not being distracted by anything else right now.”
As good as Davis on court performance is, those around him praise his leadership and ability to connect with others off the court as well.
“He’s an All-American, and probably the greatest player in the history of the Arcadia men’s basketball program here, and just having him around, you just want to cherish those moments,” Van Zelst said. “He has a contagious personality, a great sense of humor, I just enjoy it day by day, and I am happy to have him.
“Every program has a player like him, and every 15-20 years you get a generational talent, and being able to spend time with him, and watch him be great. It is going to be weird at Arcadia basketball without him, but the program will go on. Great players graduate, and hopefully one day we will get another Da’Kquan.”