For Luke Skywalker, it was Obi-Wan Kenobi.
For Dorothy, the Kansas farm girl, it was the Wizard of Oz.
And for Darrell Davis?
“Oh, Archie Miller for sure,” the Dayton Flyers junior guard said with a laugh. “My freshman and sophomore years he got the message to me … He told me … He yelled at me … Said if I wanted to keep playing I’ve got to defend.”
The UD coach said the transformation from the offensive-minded kid from Detroit to the Dayton Flyer everyone saw Thursday night in a 75-59 victory over Richmond at UD Arena came with a lot of struggle until the light finally went on.
“Once he got over the fact that he can play well without ever shooting the ball, it enlightened him,” Miller said. “Good things can happen, if he just trusts what we’re telling him.”
That was the case against the Spiders, who came into the game leading the Atlantic 10 with a 5-0 record in league play and, in Miller’s assessment, two of the best players in the conference in 6-foot-9 senior T.J. Cline and senior guard ShawnDre’ Jones, who together averaged 34.6 points per game.
Dayton, meanwhile, was without the services of its best defensive player, 6-foot senior guard Kyle Davis, who it appears will be sidelined a while with an ankle sprain suffered last Saturday at Duquesne,
Darrell Davis started in his place and though he finished with 11 points, he shot only twice in the second half and made just one field goal.
Good things did happen without him shooting.
His primary concern Thursday night was Jones, whose 16.8 scoring average was 10th best in the A-10. A nearly 42-percent shooter from beyond the arc, he’s No 4 in the league in 3-point accuracy.
Against UD, Jones was 0-for-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from long range and finished with one point.
“Maybe it wasn’t his night,” Miller said with a shrug.
A big reason was Darrell Davis, who admitted afterward: “I take real pride in my defense now.”
That’s something you NEVER would have heard him say when he came out of Frederick Douglass High School in Detroit.
“When I first came here I didn’t think defense was the best thing for me,” he admitted. “In high school I was a big scorer. I had somebody who could defend for me.”
That kind of talk would be heresy to Miller, who hammers home the kind of gritty defensive mindset that’s made this year’s 14-4 team the No. 1 scoring defense in the conference.
Back when Davis was a freshman though, UD had so many other worries — the team had only seven players — that he was needed for his offense.
He was something of a designated 3-point shooter then and in fact his 45.2-percent marksmanship from long range led the Atlantic 10 that season.
“Yeah, I was a better 3-point shooter as a freshman,” he said. “Maybe people didn’t know who I was at first. Now they’ve been able to lock into me.”
Although he’s now shooting 33.9 percent from behind the arc after making 3 of 6 on Thursday, he’s a far better player than he ever was, Miller said:
“When he first came in he was like a lot of freshmen. He came in wet behind the ears. He didn’t understand what we were asking him to do. It was, ‘Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we do that?’
“I was always telling him, ‘That’s not what we do.’
“He fought the process for a year, maybe a year and a half, always trying to figure out where he fit in. He just had to realize if he plays defense the rest will come.”
The process went on this season and in December Davis played just four minutes against Division II St. Joseph of Indiana.
“I think that’s all the attention he needed at that point,” Miller said “From that point forward he’s really dedicated himself to being a good teammate and doing everything we needed.”
And that was never more evident than Thursday night.
“Look at the job he did tonight in 38 minutes!” Miller said. “Very few times did I look out there and have to say ‘what’s going on?’
“He played the game the right way.”
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