Wright State basketball: Davis family grateful to have caring friend in Trice

Amari Davis at Trotwood-Madison. DDN FILE

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Amari Davis at Trotwood-Madison. DDN FILE

FAIRBORN — Former Trotwood-Madison star Amari Davis was attracted to Wright State because of the prospect of playing in front of family and friends along with the program’s recent success.

A longstanding relationship on the coaching staff didn’t hurt, either.

First-year assistant Travis Trice coached Amari’s late brother, Lamar Jr. (known as “Boo”), in seventh and eighth grade on the AAU circuit with the D-I Greyhounds. Travis Trice II also was on that 2006 and ‘07 powerhouse.

Boo, who was a 6-5, 205-pound budding star then, attended an open gym Trice was holding at Wayne High School when he collapsed and was rushed to Children’s Hospital. He died at age 14 of what was later determined to be an enlarged heart.

“He called my husband to come up and do an open gym workout on a Saturday,” said the players’ mother, Gerie (pronounced Jerr-EE). “I actually was at work. He drove my husband to the hospital, following the ambulance. And he stayed with him when my son passed away. Through all of that, the bond they already had became even deeper.”

Trice spoke at the funeral, which was held at Trotwood-Madison.

“It really touched him and hurt him just as much as us,” Gerie said.

Amari was only about kindergarten age, but Trice, who became Wayne boys coach two years later, kept in touch and followed his career.

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Travis Trice, Wright State men's basketball assistant coach

Credit: Courtesy of Wright State univers

Travis Trice, Wright State men's basketball assistant coach

Credit: Courtesy of Wright State univers

Combined ShapeCaption
Travis Trice, Wright State men's basketball assistant coach

Credit: Courtesy of Wright State univers

Credit: Courtesy of Wright State univers

Though he averaged 30 points as a senior while leading Trotwood-Madison to a state title, Davis received little interest from D-I schools. That’s where Trice stepped in.

“(Green Bay coach) Linc Darner was my college teammate at Purdue,” he said. “I called Linc up. He won a national championship in Division II (at Florida Southern) and got the Green Bay job. I said, ‘There’s a kid here who’s underrecruited and undervalued. You’ll love him with the style you play. I know you’ll get a lot out of him.

“Linc came to Huber Heights, Ohio. I worked Amari out for 30 or 40 minutes, and Linc offered him a scholarship.”

Darner was fired after Amari’s freshman year despite going 17-16 and finishing third in the Horizon League.

After one season with a new regime and another at Missouri, Amari entered the transfer portal last week. And Trice was the first Wright State coach to reach out to him.

“Coach Trice and I already had some background. He’s kind of like family to me,” Amari said. “We already had been talking during past seasons, just checking up on each other. There was a connection there.”

When Lamar Sr. was asked what his son went through after deciding to transfer, he said: “I don’t think it was really tough once Wright State came in. Coach Trice is on the coaching staff, and he’s been a big part of our family ever since our oldest son passed away.

“He’s like a brother to us, and will be like another father figure to Amari.”

Trice believes the Raiders are getting a highly motivated player.

“It changed that young man’s life because his brother was his idol,” Trice said of the tragedy. “Everything he’s ever done — those who know him and his family (would say) — has been fueled by the loss of his brother and trying to fill the legacy that would have been Boo Davis.”

His mother has seen that same fire in her son.

“Nothing has ever come easy for him,” she said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to be one of those success stories because you’ve had to fight for everything you’ve gotten. My theory is, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think that’s where his success comes in. He fights for everything.”

NEW WORLD: Wright State coach Scott Nagy is still adapting to the mass transfers in college basketball these days.

In Division I alone, 1,633 players have entered the transfer portal since last season. That’s an average of about 4.6 per team.

When Amari Davis transferred to Wright State, he was the ninth player to leave Missouri since midseason.

There were 1,723 transfers in 2021 — a huge surge from the 1,012 in 2020. Just 10 years ago, only 577 players transferred.

The difference is the new rule allowing players to change schools without sitting out.

Another factor is players trying to maximize their Name, Image and Likeness money, which became legal last summer. High-profile programs have turned it into a recruiting tool.

The Raiders lost two stars to the transfer portal and landed two.

“We don’t want that to be typical, where we’re going that route,” Nagy said. “But we had two players leave us that were completely unexpected. It leaves you in a scramble mode.

“The portal is tough. You can just constantly stay in it, and how does that help your younger players if you’re getting older players who are more experienced all the time?”

The Raiders had few options, though, after losing Tanner Holden and Grant Basile. Though there are still some unsigned 2022 recruits, those players likely couldn’t provide immediate help.

“We still have the responsibility to get the best players we can — as long as they fit who we are and what are scheme is. There’s a balance,” Nagy said.

PLAYERS ON THE MOVE: Wright State isn’t the only Horizon League school to lose stars to the transfer portal.

Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis, who was named league co-player of the year last season and is a four-time first-team all-conference pick, is looking to relocate and is being pursued by top programs.

Cleveland State’s D’Moi Hodge, the 2020 HL defensive player of the year and a first-team all-league pick, also is transferring. Vikings coach Dennis Gates left after three years to take over at Missouri.

A former Raider also is looking for a new locale.

Malachi Smith, who made the 2019 HL all-freshman team, was the Southern Conference player of the year at Chattanooga last season after averaging 20 points and seven rebounds. He entered the transfer portal last week.

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