Davis Shows Well
Scouts Look At JMU Guard
HARRISONBURG — A.J. Davis’ hot shooting helped James Madison win its first Colonial Athletic Association title in nearly two decades. It was his newfound determinedness that might have impressed scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament last week.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard wasn’t effective from long range like he was so often down the stretch for the Dukes, but he made up for it at the showcase at Churchland High School by doing the little things that his JMU coaches asked of him all season.
“Didn’t have a great week shooting-wise — made two 3-pointers of the  he took… but we already know he can shoot,” NBA Scouting Director Ryan Blake said. “He competed well. The first game, he rebounded well, got to the line a few times. And he was more active and assertive on defense.”
Asked Wednesday about that evaluation, Davis agreed.
“That would be a very accurate assessment of how I played,” the CAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player-turned-NBA hopeful said.
Davis, a late addition to the scouting tournament’s roster, was one of 64 college seniors to participate at the PIT, which gives fringe NBA prospects the opportunity to impress professional scouts. All 30 NBA teams had at least one representative at Portsmouth, and a few of those representatives spoke directly to Davis after games, the player said. Davis, who is not projected to be drafted, refused to divulge which teams have shown interest in him.
“I got feedback from some teams, things I needed to work on,” said Davis, who averaged 12.2 points per game as a fifth-year senior at JMU. “I stood out to them on those three days, so that was a good experience.”
Some of the feedback was similar to what Madison coach Matt Brady tried to impress upon Davis during a strange season in which Brady benched and suspended the Wyoming transfer before watching him lead the Dukes to the NCAA Tournament.
“Things that Coach Brady has been telling me all year: That if I want to play at the next level, I’ve got to defend and rebound,” Davis said.
Davis hopes to become the first JMU player drafted to the NBA since Steve Hood went in the second round in 1991. Six Dukes have been drafted all-time, but Linton Townes is the only one to log minutes in the league (undrafted Kennard Washington also played in the NBA).
“My plan is to — [whether I] get drafted, go undrafted — just to get my foot in the door in the NBA, would be a blessing to me,” Davis said. “To be picked up on a team and be the last one on the bench and work my way up from there — that would be a blessing for me. Any way to get in there and work my way up I’ll be happy with.”
What are the chances of him being drafted?
One Eastern Conference scout said Wednesday that he was impressed by Davis’ strength and athleticism, but chose not to speak much about his organization’s interest level. Asked what’s the likelihood of a team using one of the draft’s 60 picks to select Davis, the scout responded with a common truism: “All you need is one team to like a guy.”
If Davis is not drafted, he can still work his way onto an NBA team with impressive performances in the NBA’s Summer League or in the Development League. There’s also the option of playing overseas, which is more lucrative, but it is a more difficult path to an NBA roster because a player would have to get out of his contract with an overseas club. A player on an NBDL team, on the other hand, can easily move up to a pro squad.
Asked about his preference, Davis said he does not know whether he would try to play in the D-League or play overseas for more money like former Dukes center Denzel Bowles did after not being picked in 2011.
Michael Whitaker — whose most notable client is Indiana Pacers point guard George Hill — is the agent representing Davis.
Playing on a team of eight players, Davis averaged 10 points and 3.7 rebounds in his three games in Portsmouth on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He hurt his back in the opening game when he was inadvertently shoved by Jamal Olasewere, a forward from the Long Island Brooklyn — the team JMU defeated in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last month in Dayton.
Davis attributed his 1-for-8 shooting on Friday to the mild injury, but he bounced back Saturday, tallying 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of a championship game loss.
The most athletic player on JMU last season, Davis also fared well in the PIT’s combine.
While Blake would not make the results public, he said Davis was near the top of the class in most categories.
“He did well,” Blake said. “Him competing the way he did helped himself a lot. He’s going to draw some interest if he’s able to continue to believe himself, work hard, and continue to work on the fundamentals of his game — ball-handling and defensive energy.”
Blake said Davis’ age (25) should not concern most teams, because he won’t receive a first-round guaranteed contract anyway. If a team is looking to plug in someone who can contribute immediately for a year, Davis could be a better option than a 19-year-old with more potential.
Davis will graduate next month and then find somewhere to train leading up to the draft on June 27. The Columbus, Ohio native said he might head to California or Las Vegas for training, but has not yet decided.
Brady’s advice in the meantime…
“Nothing a lot different than the things we’ve been talking about here,” the coach said. “Continue to work on his ball-handling and offense. Defensively, he has to use his athletic ability, challenge shots, pressure the ball and keep people in front.”