John Davis (above) had 14 points and 10 rebounds as Towson beat Drexel 69-65 on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Allen Iverson might think John Davis is in the perfect situation: all games, no practice.
Davis, a senior at Towson and product of South Philly’s powerhouse Neumann-Goretti Saints, gets to live the dream of the former 76ers guard, whose “we talkin’ about practice?” rant is an all-timer. While his teammates practice, Davis rides a warm-up bike on the sidelines, or hands out pointers.
And then when the Tigers suit up for games, he’s their super sub, playing an average of 23 minutes off bench as the team’s third-leading scorer (11.8 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.6 rpg).
“The rest of our guys, if they don’t practice, we ain’t playing them,” Tigers coach Pat Skerry said. “John’s a different deal.”
Of course, it’s not because Davis is lazy that he doesn’t practice. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
A stress reaction in Davis’ left foot has Skerry and the Tigers’ staff managing the 6-5 forward’s minutes as carefully as possible, as he’s spent the last two years playing through injury.
“[My teammates] know how serious it is, they don’t want me too stressed out and they wouldn’t have me on the floor,” he said. “They know, they respect it.”
On a team filled with tough dudes, Davis stakes his claim as the toughest.
He originally hurt the foot three weeks before his junior season, spending those three weeks resting it up. He then played out all 33 games that year, starting 29, though his points (10.3 ppg) and rebounds (5.5 rpg) were both down from his sophomore season (11.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
“I probably shouldn’t have played on it but I went ahead and played on it anyways, and I guess it got worse,” he said. “This year it kind of still was bothering me, then once the season started, got more mileage on it, more usage...went and got an MRI and they said it’s back.”
For most of Colonial Athletic Association conference play, Davis would sit out practice on Monday and Tuesday, then get 20 minutes of practice on Wednesday before games on Thursday and Saturday.
Starting last week, he’s done with practice completely.
“He wants to practice -- that was the problem a year ago, he went until he couldn’t go anymore, and that’s what he would do,” Skerry said. “We’re in the mix [in the CAA], we need him, so he’s trying to manage it.”
Davis didn’t look bothered at all in Towson’s 69-65 win at Drexel on Saturday, leading his team with 14 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
“During the game it doesn’t hurt at all; [afterwards] it hurts definitely,” he said. “I think it’s my adrenaline that pushes me through, but after the game, like right now I feel it a lot. It is what it is.”
Davis certainly made his last hoops appearance in his hometown count.
The undersized-yet-powerful forward delivered several clutch plays during Towson’s win, including a lefty hook shot with two minutes left to put his team up a point, followed by a late shot-clock block Drexel’s next time down the court to keep his team in front.
After the Dragons made it a two-point game with under a minute remaining, Davis broke the press with a full-court pass to Mike Morsell, whose layup put the Tigers back up four.
Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale, one of several Saints coaches and players in attendance, wasn’t willing to call Davis the toughest player he’s ever coached -- “I hate to rank them and all because they all come back a lot,” he said -- but he did admit this much: “Pound-for-pound, inch-for-inch, there wasn’t too many tougher."
(Ed. Note: The night of this game, Davis was injured in a drive-by shooting in Philadelphia. He was treated at a hospital and released. A full statement from Towson can be found here).
Zane Martin (above) had nine points and three steals for Towson. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Arrigale got to watch two of his products shine at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Another former Saint, Towson freshman Zane Martin, came off the bench to chip in nine points, four boards, three steals and two assists.
Martin, a 6-4 lefty, played single-digit minutes in six of his team’s first nine games this season but has seen his role increase as the year’s gone on, dropping 23 points at Hofstra on Jan. 19 and playing double-figure minutes in now six straight games, scoring 26 points over his last three.
“He’s one offseason away from potentially being a leading scorer for us next year,” Skerry said. “He’s going to be really good.”
Davis and Martin were teammates before, when they were in high school, but in very different roles. Martin barely saw the court as a freshman in 2012-13, when Davis was the leading scorer on the Catholic League champions and PIAA Class AAA quarterfinalists.
Now they’re playing big minutes together and finding each other on the court.
“That’s like my little brother,” Davis said. “He’s a talented player, very talented, more talented than I am...just him looking up to me as a big brother, showing him the ropes.”
Towson (17-10, 9-5 CAA) is playing some of its best basketball of the season, having won four straight and nine of 10 after dropping its first four league games. With four regular-season games remaining, including two tough road trips to UNC-Wilmington and William & Mary, the Tigers are two games back of UNCW and one behind Charleston in the CAA race.
With two more victories before the season runs out, Davis will become the school’s all-time winningest player, with 75 wins in four years.
That would be quite the accomplishment for a player who committed to Towson during a season the Tigers went 1-31, Skerry’s first of what’s now six at the Maryland school.
“If we had 13 guys like John Davis, we wouldn’t need coaches,” Skerry said. “As I’ve told our guys, if he doesn’t get two more wins, someone’s going to pay, because we’ve got to win for that guy.”