JMU’s Davis Back
Brady Reinstates Senior Guard
Posted: December 4, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Eyes fixated on his music, newly reinstated James Madison basketball player A.J. Davis walked into the Dukes’ locker room Monday before his first practice since being suspended from the team late last week.
Davis declined an interview request, simply saying, “Nah, nah, nah,” with a smile on his face.
JMU coach Matt Brady was quite a bit more loquacious.
The fifth-year Dukes’ coach announced Monday at his weekly press conference that he is giving Davis another shot – this after what he said was an hour-long meeting Monday morning.
Brady admitted that his problems with Davis started last season, and that JMU (2-5) now has enough depth on its roster to justify suspending its most talented player strictly based on what Brady perceived to be selfish play.
Why did Brady formally suspend Davis rather than simply bench him? Brady said Davis’ attitude was ongoing and a distraction to the team.
“Last year, A.J. wasn’t a role model for our team,” Brady said. “My hands were, in some respects, tied behind my back. Yet we were in every game. And I think we’re going to be in every game this year, for the most part. Yet we don’t need him to be in every game this year. We don’t have a seven-man rotation, now that we have Andrey Semenov back and we’re not going to redshirt Arman Marks. There’s plenty of opportunity for guys to take minutes, and guys are going to earn minutes.
“Last year, I’m not sure A.J. earned his minutes; A.J. was given his minutes. And having lost [multiple players to injury], the choices weren’t plentiful. And they weren’t necessarily the choices I would like to make. I made the decision this week that I was eager to make if things weren’t going our way. I stand behind my decision and I hope that A.J. makes the most of it. And if he decides not to make the most of it, A.J. knows that he’ll be playing in UREC for the second semester, and that’s OK.”
According to the press release delivered Saturday afternoon, Brady suspended Davis for “a violation of team standards.” Those standards, Brady said Monday, had everything to do with Davis’ erratic play on the court.
The 6-foot-6 senior from Columbus, Ohio, sometimes forced shots or drives and sometimes played less-than-energetic defense. That was the reason Brady suspended Davis shortly after rendering him a bench-warmer.
“I’ll say this: We have really good kids on our team,” Brady said. “Nobody is running around, for the most part, getting in trouble. They get along with people. Our issue is on the court. A.J.’s issue is on the court. I think the world of A.J. Davis off the court. My kids really like him. My family likes him. I think he’s an interesting guy to be around.”
Brady just didn’t like what he offered his basketball team.
Davis scored 16 points in 25 minutes of a blowout loss at UCLA to begin the season, and then played 39 of 45 minutes of an overtime loss to Duquesne – a game in which he shot 3-for-11 for eight points.
Then, in a win against Youngstown State, Davis logged 14 minutes, and just three after halftime. Davis went 1-for-6 from the field, and the Dukes made a second-half comeback with freshmen playing in his spot. Davis started the next day against North Dakota State, but was again on a short leash, going scoreless in just 11 minutes of another blowout loss. Brady said after that game that Davis did nothing to show he wanted to go back into the game.
The preseason all-league second teamer had seven points in 12 minutes off the bench in a loss at Miami of Ohio (another 1-for-6 shooting performance) and then went scoreless in a mere four minutes in the home opener against George Washington – a game the Dukes lost by one point.
Brady said after that game that Davis’ lack of playing time was due to the player failing to communicate with him. The next day, Brady told Davis not to show up to practice or the following game, Saturday against Winthrop.
They met again Monday, and, according to Brady, the overarching theme of the conversation was that the onus is on Davis to show he belongs.
“He has to make a decision to buy in,” Brady said. “He’s got to be able to do it in game settings, and in practice settings. In fact, in practice he’s been fine. It’s the games that are his challenge. It’s something I’m very hopeful for him. And our team. If he comes back and he’s just a contributing player, we’re better. If he doesn’t want to contribute and be a team player, this is what I said to A.J. this morning, again: ‘That’s fine, we’re making progress.’”
Davis played parts of two seasons at Wyoming and then transferred after his playing time was somewhat mysteriously cut by then-coach Heath Schroyer. Upon arriving in Harrisonburg, Davis said he transferred to be closer to home, while Schroyer declined to comment on why Davis’ minutes were abruptly cut in the midst of a statistically productive sophomore season.
After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Davis flourished in his first year at JMU, averaging a team-best 15.6 points per game, including 11 performances of 20-plus points. But he and Brady butted heads, often over Davis’ shot selection, or willingness to provide full effort in non-scoring categories like defense and rebounding.
Because he possesses the full package in terms of athleticism and natural talent, Davis is a prospect to play professionally – likely somewhere overseas. That career path may have been in jeopardy after Davis was suspended, but now he has another chance, albeit in a different role.
Brady said he is hopeful that Davis can buy in and do what’s asked of him.
“His ability to get in game is going to come down solely to how hard he works, and how respectful he is of his teammates, his team and his coaching staff,” Brady said. “I feel that A.J. has gone through a learning experience. I’m hopeful again that we’ll see the best of A.J., and we’ll let him write his last chapter of his college career.”
NOTE: Freshman guard Ron Curry, who missed Saturday’s win with a concussion, has been ruled out by doctors for Wednesday’s home game against East Tennessee State.