Illinois power forward Mike Davis declared for the NBA draft but does not plan to hire an agent. He is likely doing this to find out what he needs to improve upon next year to get his shot with the NBA at that time. At least, that's the way he sounded at the Illini basketball banquet last Wednesday.
Davis scored 385 points, a 10.7 per game average, during the 2009-10 season. He scored two more points than his sophomore year in two more games, so his average of 10.7 was slightly down from last year. He made up for it by grabbing 330 rebounds, an average of 9.2 each game and one per game more than in 2008-09.
He did well, but he wanted more. A broken foot last summer reduced his preseason practice time.
"You know personally, I think I did all right. I could have done better. I think my injury kind of hampered my progress a little bit on ball handling. But I worked it out. I got my rebounds, I played a little better and more intense a little bit. But as far as where I want to be, I need to make a bigger jump."
Davis knew he needed to add to his offensive repertoire, but he didn't get started practicing shooting off the dribble until late summer. He shot a highly respectable .473 from the field this year despite missing a significant number of shots off the bounce.
"Exactly. It's all about repetition. I've got to keep doing it. The more you do it, the more you get better at it. When you first start, you're not gonna be very good at it. I need repetition. Get in the gym and work on my game. I figure if I can do that, I'll be better next year."
A lack of leadership early in the season produced unexpected losses. Davis felt the absence of Chester Frazier.
"Definitely. Having Chester around was like having a coach on the floor playing with us. At the beginning of the season, we didn't have that distinct leader. Later on Demetri (McCamey) took on that role and led us.
"Once he took that role, we went on a roll from there. Next year we'll have Demetri if he comes back, and we'll be ready to go."
The Illini made costly mistakes that prevented them from achieving their preseason goals. Not making the NCAA Tournament was a tough pill to swallow, but it may be a long-term blessing as the players don't want a repeat next season. Davis says it was a wake-up call.
"I think it was. We didn't come out prepared, especially at home. We should win at home every game. Playing at home, you can't come out lackidasical and all that kind of stuff. That's what we did.
"We thought we were gonna come out and win by ourselves, just let the crowd win for us. It can't happen like that. We've got to play extra hard at home, not take the home court advantage for granted."
With most of the team returning and highly-rated freshmen Meyers Leonard, Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head enrolling, the Illini could be formidable in 2010-11. At least, practices should be highly competitive.
"In practice for sure. Three Top 75 guys coming in who want minutes. Meyers made the USA team, Jereme is an All-American. Crandall is coming off an injury, so he'll be hungry too. So it should be a great set of practices to watch. I can't wait."