Warhawks’ Chris Davis has worked hard to get back on the right path
WHITEWATER When Chris Davis walks onto the court tonight with his UW-Whitewater teammates, he knows what to expect.
The Warhawks’ first-round opponent in the NCAA Division III tournament game—Northwestern (Minn.) College—likely has watched tape of what Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams have been doing to him.
Whenever Davis gets the ball, one body will be leaning on him, and several others will be waiting for his first move.
With a left knee that is not 100 percent due to a mid-season injury, Davis has had to work increasingly hard for his points.
Work is not foreign to the 23-year-old. Davis has been working to set his life straight since he took a wrong turn after his sophomore year at Madison East High School.
Davis has come a long way since he decided to “redshirt” his junior year at East. He didn’t go to school. He ran the streets. He admits he was in the “wrong crowd,” without anyone to give him the needed direction.
His mother, Sue, worked two jobs—from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m. His father, Willie, was in jail. His older brother was in college.
Looking back, he uses one word to describe himself back then.
Davis returned to Madison East a year later, determined to make good.
“It was time to wake up,” Davis said. “I came back focused, got all my grades together and got a chance to play basketball again, which was great.”
For him, it was great. For opponents such as Janesville Parker, it wasn’t so great,
especially during his senior season.
In a January 2006 game, the Vikings got an up-close-and-personal look at Davis. He scored all 18 of the Purgolders’ first-quarter points and finished with 34 in a
72-50 East victory.
His grades earned him a place on the honor roll, and his grade-point average was the highest on the team.
“I was a whole different person when I came back,” he said. “It was either (that or) follow that wrong path and end up in jail or something stupid like that, and there’s my life.”
Davis graduated and waited for an NCAA Division I offer that people around him thought would come.
And then his life took another turn.
His girlfriend gave birth to his son, Chris Jr., or “Little Chris,” as everyone calls him now when the 4-year-old runs around the Whitewater athletic complex.
With no Division I offer and wanting to stay in Madison to be close to his son, Davis enrolled at Madison Area Technical College. He hoped to complete his two years there and move on to a bigger school.
Unfortunately, his troubles didn’t end there.
Davis was frustrated with what he perceived as a lack of competition. He didn’t think he was getting any better.
And then in his second and final year on the basketball team, that frustration boiled over. Davis and a freshman got into a fight during practice near the end of the season. Both players were suspended from the team.
Davis thought his chance to play college basketball had vanished in one foolish moment.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Davis said. “I had some DIs (interested) when I was at MATC, but all that went out the window.”
That is when Pat Miller stepped in. The Warhawks’ head coach had followed Chris’ career at Madison East. A former Warhawk player, Matt Young, was an assistant coach at MATC.
Miller and Young were convinced that Davis deserved another chance.
The way Davis handled himself and did the work required to get into Whitewater reassured Miller he had made the right decision.
“Chris did what he had to do,” Miller said. “He clearly wanted to get somewhere. He clearly wanted his degree. Some guys just want to play basketball.”
Davis welcomed the opportunity, and he has done nothing to prove Miller wrong.
His most apparent contribution is on the basketball court, where he has earned All-WIAC first-team honors both of his seasons.
As a junior, Davis averaged 21.3 points and 9 rebounds a game while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor (214 of 425), 31.1 percent from 3-point range (38 of 122) and 82.1 percent from the line (87 of 122).
This season, Davis not only earned first-team All-WIAC honors, but league coaches voted him the WIAC Player of the Year. Going into tonight’s game against Northwestern, Davis is averaging 22.2 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.
Davis leads the WIAC in both categories.
His 42.4 percent mark from 3-point range (50 of 118) and 88.2 free-throw percentage (90 of 102) reflect his shooting accuracy.
His contributions outside those statistics also have been noteworthy.
Playing with teammates who are up to five years younger than he is, Davis is a guiding force.
“Sometimes,” he said, smiling. “Sometimes I still like to act like a kid.”
Davis agreed that there
isn’t much any teammate can encounter that would surprise him.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said.
His athletic days at Whitewater might not be over, even though his basketball eligibility will be used up when this season ends.
Davis, who played football as well as basketball at Madison East, wants to go out for the three-time defending NCAA Division III championship football team in the fall.
Football coach Lance Leipold might be able to use a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end. That is if doctors give Davis the OK after an MRI on his left knee.
The injury—which kept him out of two whole games and a part of another—and the constant barrage of defensive pressure reduced Davis’ production at the end of the regular season.
Miller said that put Davis in a funk at times because the senior feels the rest of the team is depending on him.
Don’t be surprised if he responds in the postseason.
And whether or not he plays football, he still has to get his degree.
“I want to coach or be a social worker,” Davis said. “I want to show kids that when you struggle, you still can make it through.
“A lot of kids don’t know that,” he said. “Once they start getting in trouble and everybody is coming down on them, they think they can’t make it out of it.
“But you can.”
Look for no better example than Chris Davis.