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September 16, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

Ray Brewer:

One athlete’s amazing story of earning a college scholarship

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Centennial’s Eddie Davis, left, and Marcus Allen fight for a rebound with Bishop Gorman’s Noah Robotham during their Division I state championship game Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at the Orleans. Gorman won 69-43.

Eddie Davis wanted to play in one last tournament with his AAU basketball team.

But he was leaving in three weeks for a junior college in Montana and was advised by his father not to play for Hard 2 Guard last week in the Las Vegas Invitational at Spring Valley.

Father knows best, right?

The tournament was for players mostly in high school. Davis, a 6-foot-7 forward, graduated in June from Centennial High.

“My dad told me not to play. He didn’t want me to get injured before junior college,” Davis said.

Davis, though, couldn’t decline a few days of good competition. And the tournament would be heavily recruited by college coaches, meaning Davis would have one last try to find a roster spot at a higher level of basketball.

He knew it would be a long shot because most colleges already had their teams set for 2014-15 season and were scouting at the tournament for future seasons. His window to get a scholarship was assumed to be closed already.

Then, shortly after his last game, Davis’ cellphone rang with a life-changing call. It was first-year Southern Mississippi coach Doc Sadler.

“He said, ‘We need a stretch (power forward) who can shoot the 3,’” Davis said. “He called me back 20 minutes later and offered a scholarship.”

Davis averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds per game as a senior for Centennial and, like Sadler observed, has a killer outside shot for a big man. He made 34 of 99 on three-pointers as a senior.

He sent out game film to a few coaches after the high school season but didn’t hear back. And not just from Division I programs — all levels of college basketball.

Now, not only is Davis receiving a scholarship from Southern Miss, he’ll be playing at basketball’s highest level. It’s a dream come true, something he never expected to happen. Not in his wildest dreams.

“At first, I didn’t believe it,” said Davis, who immediately accepted the scholarship offer. “I thought I was going to the JC. I teared up. I couldn’t believe it.”

Most prospects take the five recruiting trips allowed by the NCAA before making their college decision. Some even spend their own money to further investigate schools. Davis will arrive Aug. 13 in Hattiesburg, Miss., without having seen the campus, or even the state.

And you won’t hear him complain. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he plans to capitalize on.

Here’s what makes Davis special, something Sadler and others at Southern Miss will soon learn: Most would be content with making it to Division I, especially when the alternative was a junior college in Montana. But Davis wants more — he wants to start, win games and championships, and have a memorable four years.

“My work is just getting started,” he said. “It’s about becoming the best player you can be.”

Click to enlarge photo

Centennial basketball players, from left, Eddie Davis, Khalil Thompson and Troy Brown Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.

At Centennial, Davis’ best gave the Bulldogs their first appearance in the state championship game. In the 2012-13 season, Centennial trailed Canyon Springs by four points with less than two minutes to play in the state semifinals. Instead of designing a play for one of the Allen twins — Marcus and Malcolm scored most of Centennial’s points that year before heading to Stanford basketball — coach Todd Allen surprisingly called Davis’ number. Davis, the a junior, drained a 3-pointer from the corner and Centennial rallied to reach the championship game.

Yes, he can definitely knock down the outside shot. He’ll continue doing so at the next level. Every game means something to Davis. It another chance to play, to prove himself and to continue living out his basketball dreams.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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