Green Bay freshman Amari Davis had his own personal rooting section at Wright State on Saturday, but he didn’t give the group much to cheer about while picking up three quick fouls and trudging to the bench with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.
That wasn’t the kind of homecoming the Trotwood-Madison grad had envisioned to that point.
Davis, though, realized his day was far from finished.
“Coach said, ‘There’s other things you can do besides play. You can be a coach on the sidelines.’ And he said the second half is mine,” Davis said.
The 6-foot-3 guard scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including three straight jumpers in less than two minutes to fuel a rally that gave the Phoenix (5-9) a five-point lead with 5:20 to go.
But the Raiders (11-3) went on a 13-2 run after that to surge to a 90-84 victory as Loudon Love scored 22 points, Cole Gentry 21 and Bill Wampler 20.
“They made some clutch plays,” said Davis, who went 6 of 11 from the field and 6 of 8 on free throws. “They got a lot of 50-50 balls that turned into 3’s. We let up on the gas. We should’ve kept going.”
The former Ohio Division II player of the year averaged 30 points and led Trotwood-Madison to a state title in March. He was recruited some by Wright State, but Green Bay made him a priority.
»LOOKING BACK: Davis leads Rams to state championship
He’s the top scorer for the Phoenix with a 16.1 average and is shooting a Horizon League-best 56.6 percent from the field.
“Like they say, ‘Go where you’re wanted.’ Wright State didn’t want me. I can’t fault them for that. Green Bay wanted me, and they’ve been working ever since to make me who I am,” he said.
Coach Linc Darner saw something in Davis that others may not have appreciated.
“He’s got a really good mid-range game. Nowadays, not everybody wants to see a mid-range game. They want to see 3’s or layups. We let him play to his strengths,” Darner said.
T-M coach Rocky Rockhold, who was one of Davis’ backers in the stands, figured Green Bay’s up-tempo style would suit his star since that’s the way the Rams play.
“When he took his first visit to Green Bay, he texted me and said, ‘What am I supposed to do? I really like it here.’ I said, ‘Stop all the recruitment. Don’t drag it out. Tell them you’re coming.’ He loved it and felt comfortable there,” Rockhold said.
Darner was thrilled to win a recruiting battle for a player in Wright State’s backyard, though the Raiders landed budding star Tanner Holden at the same position in that class.
“It was a great ‘get’ for us,” Darner said. “We liked the fact that he could score. Like we told him when we recruited him, ‘We’re not worried about the 3-point shot. You can put the ball in the hoop.’ That’s the bottom line. Letting him play to that is a big advantage for him.”
During the recruiting process, Wright State coach Scott Nagy felt as if he couldn’t get an accurate read on Davis, who scored more than 2,500 career points for the Rams, and how he’d fit in the Raiders’ more structured scheme.
But he said: “He’s a good player. He’s so explosive.”
If Davis keeps up his current pace, he not only will be a headache for the Raiders over the next four years, but he might also challenge Trotwood-Madison legend Chris Wright for the title of the best player in school history.
“I joked with Chris in the summer and said, ‘You’ve got to say he’s better because he’s got a state championship ring.’ Chris just laughed,” Rockhold said.
“He’s a great guy, and Amari is a special kid, too.”
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