After a torn achilles ended an already inconsistent at best sophomore season, De’Ron Davis is back for year three with extremely different expectations than what the Colorado native saw just 12 months ago.
Looking back to last season, Davis did show flashes of the player Indiana fans expected him to be. While just an average rebounder, Davis’ 8.8 block percentage would have been in KenPom’s top 50 nationally if he would have met the minutes requirement. Davis also exceptional in the post, as the 6-10 bulldozer scored 72 points on 64 post-up possessions (per Synergy sports), which ranked in the 95th percentile in college basketball.
Davis began the season strong, as he averaged 11.5 points per game (while shooting 67.5% from the floor), 4.4 rebounds per game and 1.5 blocks per game through December 9. That included his best game of the season, which came against number one Duke and their monster front line of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter. In that game, Davis was a force on both ends of the floor, as he made both Blue Devils work for their shots on defense and was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end, as he posted a 130 offensive rating and hit six out of seven shots from the field. Davis was particularly effective in the post, where he would successfully take on Carter or Bagley, who were two of the top seven picks in the NBA Draft, and score at will.
Numbers and notions aside II, De'Ron Davis' defense is in focus. You be the judge.— Nick Baumgart (@Nick_Baumgart) August 5, 2018
Indiana lost by 10. Davis played just 21 minutes with 1H foul trouble.
Here are his first EIGHT possessions of the game (IU led 10 minutes into the game, 22-21). pic.twitter.com/SbUo00gcER
Davis was even more successful ten days later against Louisville. The 255 pound Davis was able to overpower the long and lanky Cardinal front line of Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud, who were two of the better post defenders in the country last season. Davis powered his way to a 149 offensive rating and 14 points on 5-7 shooting.
The problem for Davis was, as everyone knows, came after that Louisville game. In his last five games before getting hurt, Davis scored a grand total of 20 points (4 per game) and only grabbed 17 boards (3.4 per game).
So what happened to Davis? That’s the million dollar question that nobody could answer last season and that hangs over the 6-10 center’s head coming into this season.
“I feel like I started out strong,” Davis said back on February 2. “And then probably a month in, just before I got hurt, I was in a little slump.”
After missing roughly half of his sophomore campaign, Davis comes back to IU in a complete different situation. Whereas last year Davis was considered to be a major focal point on Archie Miller’s first team, he’s become pretty much an afterthought coming into this season, mainly due to the arrival of Romeo Langford with the rest of IU’s top ten recruiting class and the emergence of Juwan Morgan last season. But while Indiana has added a lot of length with Evan Fitzner, Jake Forrester and Race Thomson, there is no player on the roster that is built with Davis’ powerful frame.
Davis, at the very least, will need to use his size and strength in matchup specific games, such as when IU faces other power big men such as Michigan State’s Nick Ward, Michigan’s John Teske, Maryland’s Bruno Fernando and Louisville’s Steven Enoch.
An effective Davis would also give Archie Miller another dimension to an already extremely flexible and deep lineup. Because Davis is the only pure power forward/center on the roster, Miller could mix and match styles not just game to game, but in game as well. The Hoosiers could deploy a traditional look with Davis and Morgan at the four and five, but also go four around one with either Justin Smith or Fitzner at the four if Morgan is taking a breather or is in foul trouble. Miller could also deploy Morgan at the five like he did after Davis got hurt last season.
Davis showed the potential last season that he can be a major force, if he can get back to his early season form, Davis could be a surprising important piece for the Hoosiers in 2018-19.