Mike Davis Provides Senior Leadership

Mike Davis (Jack Lyman)

The Fighting Illini senior basketball players have grown up before the eyes of their fans. Each improved both on and off the court as they matured. Even though he earned second team All-Big 10 as a sophomore, Mike Davis had by far his best season as a senior. He attributes it to a willingness to listen to his coaches and a dedication to making needed improvement.

Mike Davis has had an excellent career with the University of Illinois. With his final season not over yet, he has accumulated 1238 points, 886 rebounds and 85 blocked shots. He improved his career shooting percentage to 50.6% with a quality senior season.

Speaking before his final home game against Indiana, Davis said the game was more important than Senior Night.

"I remember watching Purdue after the game, having their Senior Night and watching their friends and families be there for them. How great it was. I just want to get the win first of all. After that, I will enjoy it. And I will thank all the fans and Orange Krush and everybody that's been there to cheer me on the last four years."

Davis has been a double-double machine for the Illini throughout his career, but he was still enigmatic at times. His body language sometimes reflected frustrations that adversely affected his game. He would play inspired ball some games and disappear in others.

This season, he has finally begun to be a leader and consistent performer for the Illini. Davis had to learn difficult lessons along the way to make needed improvements in his attitudes and performance. He played worse as a junior than sophomore, something he wishes he could do over.

"Last year, I don't think I was the best listener. I kind of thought I knew it all because I had a good sophomore year. I didn't really listen to Coach (Weber) too much. I'm glad I got that changed this year. I'm listening to Coach more, and I'm getting better. I'm listening to Coach more this year than I did previous years.

"I used to think he was on me for no reason. I felt like he just yelled at me to yell at me. But now I know he was yelling at me to help me. I used to fight him a lot, and I never really listened. Now I try to listen and take it all in.

"I know that he and Coach (Wayne) McClain and Coach (Jay) Price are trying to help me. What they say is true; they do things for a reason, either to motivate you or to help with something you're doing wrong. Now I'm taking it all in stride and believing it, and it's helping my game."

Davis was young for his class, contributing to maturity issues. Illinois was able to recruit him late after other schools encouraged him to refine his skills at prep school. He was needed early at the UI so didn't redshirt. He admits it would be nice to have another year to play for Illinois.

"Having a fifth year always would be nice. Knowing what I know now, playing one more year would have benefitted me, playing with Coach Weber and his system. Not redshirting and not going to prep school, as I look back maybe I should have done it, maybe I shouldn't have done it. That's why I want to make the best of my last couple games here."

The memories of his days on the C-U campus will sustain him in his later years.

"Oh man, a lot of memories. I'll never forget GameDay. Getting the fans spilling onto the floor. We won that game. Just going to the Tournament. Even though we lost, just getting to play in one tournament game was awesome my sophomore year. We hope to do it again this year and make a little bit of a run.

"I'll miss Illinois. The campus, all the students. It's really nice to be in class. They always talk to me about basketball and off-the-court issues. Everybody is so nice to me, teachers, staff, people who work in stores. I'll miss everybody's hospitality.

"The Orange Krush is the best in the country. I'll never forget Illinois. I'll always be Illinois for life."

However, the transplanted Virginian won't miss the Illinois climate.

"It's too cold for me up here; I'm not into cold weather. Back in Virginia right now it's 50 degrees, so it's really nice."

Not surprisingly, Davis hopes to continue his basketball career after graduation.

"Hopefully, I get a shot to play in the NBA. I think I've got the talent to. As big as I am, I can run the floor and rebound. I just want to play basketball somewhere, pursue my dream."

Player and coach had their ups and downs, but Weber is happy he was able to lure Davis to the Midwest.

"Mike Davis, he didn't really have a lot of schools. He was going to prep school, and we were fortunate to find him late. The long, athletic kid we don't always find around the Midwest. Second leading rebounder in the history of the school, and a thousand points. Double-doubles, a lot of different things. And he's a good kid."

The way Davis has been playing the last couple months, Weber and Illini Nation also wish he had an extra year of eligibility. He will be difficult to replace.

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