For every success story about players entering college basketball and fitting in immediately, there are almost as many situations that aren’t as positive. Whether it’s being recruited over or placed on the back-burner at a school full of upperclassmen, sometimes a fresh start can be the best thing for a player.
That is exactly what former Lafayette High School star Jackson Davis hopes to find with his transfer from Butler University to Eastern Kentucky University.
A Mr. Basketball finalist in 2014 at Lafayette, Jackson played his first two college seasons for Butler but was never quite able to carve out a role, averaging 5.9 minutes, 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds his sophomore season. His place on the team also wasn’t helped when the head coach who recruited him, Brandon Miller, left abruptly because of an unspecified medical issue.
I think things didn’t get as good as I thought they were going to over time. I felt that in a way that I just kind of needed a fresh start.
Jackson Davis, EKU forward
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“It mostly came down to just my situation there,” Davis said. “With the coach that had recruited me leaving, that put me in a tough position to start out. I think things didn’t get as good as I thought they were going to over time. I felt that in a way that I just kind of needed a fresh start.”
His time at Butler did give Davis a crash course of what to expect in the college ranks after playing two years in a big-name conference like the Big East.
Davis gained valuable experience at Butler whether it was playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden or in one of the tougher environments across college basketball at Villanova, the eventual 2016 national champion.
Once it came down to deciding where to go, Davis’ main concern was his fit on the team. Northern Kentucky and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis were among the teams he considered, but he eventually saw EKU as the best place to land.
Transferring close to home was not a priority for Davis — who is now in Richmond taking summer classes — but it’s an added perk for the Lexington native.
“There’s definitely another level of pressure placed on me,” Davis said about playing in front of a crowd that’s likely to be filled with friends and family. “But at the same time it’s kind of exciting because I haven’t really gotten the chance to play much at the collegiate level. So I’m excited for people to see me actually get to play more.”
Davis will have to sit out one full season under the NCAA’s transfer rule before he can take the court for the Colonels. He’s not enthusiastic about missing games, but he plans to use the opportunity to work on his game.
By request of EKU head coach Dan McHale and as a result of the current “basketball cultural shift,” Davis has been investing a lot of work in his outside game. The 6-foot-8 forward will probably do most of his damage inside, but adding the three-point shot can only help him going forward.
I just like doing the things that other people don’t like doing. I just do everything I can to win the game.
Jackson Davis, EKU forward
Even with that added weapon, though, Davis hopes to remain the player he was in high school, a guy who scored most of his points off rebounds.
As a player who tries to emulate Dennis Rodman, Davis is well aware of the effort and hustle that style requires. But if the result is making winning plays for his team, that’s all that matters.
“(Rodman) didn’t score a whole lot, but whenever a play had to be made, he could make that play,” Davis said. “I just like doing the things that other people don’t like doing. I just do everything I can to win the game.”
Davis hopes serving as that type of glue guy will take the Colonels to a new level. He sees EKU as an NCAA Tournament team this upcoming season, and promises the same for the year after when he is eligible to play.
“Jackson Davis is a monumental recruit for our program,” McHale said when Davis announced his decision to transfer in April. “Getting a local kid with Big East experience enhances our brand and is huge for the university. Jackson is a tremendous talent who plays every possession like it’s his last one.”