High School Basketball

Lafayette basketball star commits to Rice

Lafayette's Jackson Davis scored over Paul Dunbar's Mike Smith in February.
Lafayette's Jackson Davis scored over Paul Dunbar's Mike Smith in February. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Rice University's successful recruitment of Lafayette basketball star Jackson Davis started with a simple misunderstanding.

An assistant coach from the Houston-based school started calling Davis earlier this year in hopes of getting in on his recruitment.

Davis was unfamiliar with the university and equally thrown by the fact that the calls were coming from a California phone number.

Didn't they leave messages explaining the reason for the calls?

"They did, but I was like, 'Rice University?' I'd never heard of Rice University," Davis said. "And it was from a number in California and my dad was telling me Rice was in Houston. I was just really confused."

Davis laughed about the ordeal Monday afternoon, a few hours after he announced his commitment to the Owls.

Once the two parties got on the same page, Davis and his family scheduled an official visit to see the school. That trip was enough to sell the 6-foot-7 forward on Rice.

"We went down there and they had a really nice campus and we had a really good connection with the coach," he said.

Davis ultimately chose the Owls over fellow finalists Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt.

That's an impressive list that includes some of the top academic institutions in the country. Davis said he plans on majoring in economics and has hopes of becoming a financial planner like his father, former UK basketball player Johnathon Davis.

He's also clearly focused on his basketball career.

Davis projects to be one of the best high school seniors in the state this season, and he recently wrapped up a successful summer with the Lexington-based Kentucky Travelers.

Though he's played a back-to-the-basket style in the past, Davis is working on honing his perimeter skills in hopes of playing right away at Rice.

"They have an immediate need for a '3-4' guy, and that's where I fit in," he said. "The biggest thing I've been working on is my ball handling. I've also worked a lot on my shooting here recently."

The Owls are coached by Ben Braun, who went to five NCAA Tournaments during 12 seasons as the head coach at California and three NCAA tourneys during 10-plus seasons at Eastern Michigan.

Braun has yet to make the tournament in five years at Rice, which hasn't been to the Big Dance since 1970.

One of Davis' goals will be to help the Owls get there.

"He's a great coach," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing for him."