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Davis finds success at SCSU

December 24, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Derrick Davis was one of the top guards in the Tri-State area in his final two years at St. Maria Goretti before graduating in 2003.

However, little thought was given that he eventually would move into a Division I college basketball program, much less have such an impact as he is currently having at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C.

After one year at Salisbury Prep School in Connecticut following high school, Davis found himself on the receiving end of a scholarship to South Carolina State.

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His coming out is a miniature version of Lou Gehrig, who replaced an injured Wally Pipp at first base and went on to play 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees.

Returning point guard Demeco Heath suffered an injury prior to the start of the season and SCSU head coach Ben Betts looked to Davis and another incoming freshman as the "interim" point guards.

Davis was Betts' decision and he's made it look like a good one, helping the Bulldogs to a 7-3 record, including a tough 68-65 overtime loss to rival South Carolina on Wednesday.

Davis, averaging 10.2 points per game, led the Bulldogs with 15 points. He's third on the team in scoring and last week was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rookie of the week following a 16-point effort in a win over Savannah State in which he shot 7 of 13 from the field and made a pair of 3-pointers. He's also second on the team in assists.

The 6-foot-1 Davis has been instrumental in a season, thus far, that includes victories over Penn State of the Big Ten and Miami, Fla., of the ACC. Next week, the Bulldogs head to Utah State for a holiday tournament.

"I would not have ever thought that he would be in a Division I program," said Goretti head coach Cokey Robertson. "He has gone through a great maturation process and developed a tremendous game presence. He looks like he has really grown up. Right now, he could be a backup guard at Maryland."

Thank you very much, but SCSU will be more than happy to keep Davis around for another three-plus years.

"Derrick has been doing a fine job for us," said Betts, who first made contact with Davis while he was playing at Goretti. "He has made the transition to the college life and to college basketball. He stepped into a role as starting point guard and has developed a great feel for the game."

Davis felt confident heading to South Carolina State following his year at prep school, which he also used to help heal a shoulder injury.

"I knew I had the tools and that was developed by going to Goretti and by coach Robertson," said Davis, who is studying sports communication. "Now, Coach Betts has the confidence in me and I have the confidence in myself."

Davis, however, felt somewhat surprised by his scoring efficiency from the No. 1 slot out front.

"I can see where he is a little surprised," Betts said. "He has shown a balance in scoring and in running the offense and he has done a very good job breaking down the opposing guards. We were pretty much a half-court type of offense but we've become more of a team in transition and a lot of that is due to Derrick."

With an opportunity to guide SCSU to greater heights and a viable shot at MEAC Rookie of the Year, Davis said he's finding his current life a little more hectic.

"It's a tough schedule with practice, games and academics," said Davis. "When you are away you have to make sure you take care of your classwork."

Right now, Davis is taking care of classwork both on and off the hardcourt.

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