La Salle teammates push Jermaine Davis

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Freshman Jermaine Davis (right) guards sophomore Jerrell Wright at La Salle practice. (Photo: Anson Marsh)

Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)

Last year, La Salle tended to win on the strength of its guards. Between Tyreek Duren, Ramon Galloway and Sam Mills–and now the impending addition of Tyrone Garland–the Explorers have plenty of talent in the backcourt.

This season, however, there is some added depth and size in the frontcourt, coming in the form of Jermaine Davis. The 6-foot-9, 290-pound freshman was used to being the biggest kid on the court in high school–but he has found some competition during Explorers practice in the form of two sophomores, 6-8 Jerrell Wright and 6-11 Steve Zack.

Wright, who was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team last season, is building on a solid freshman campaign in which he averaged close to 10 points and six rebounds a

game. Zack, who has improved over the off-season, is poised to start next to Wright in the frontcourt for La Salle.

“It was pretty tough adapting, but it is getting easier now that I know who is in my corner,” said Davis, the team’s only true freshman. “The biggest transition is that everybody is pretty much my size. That is the biggest jump for me.”

One thing that helped the transition for Davis was the level of play of his high school, Garfield Heights. Davis comes from the same high school at Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones, who was an All Atlantic 10 honorable mention selection in the 2011-2012 season.

“The program I came from, I played against a decent amount of potential division 1 players, which has helped my transition on the court,” added Davis.

Head coach John Giannini has a realistic approach to how much Davis will contribute this year, but also has strong hopes for the future.

“If you look at the A10 traditionally, there are very few young big guys playing on winning teams,” said Giannini. “Sometimes they play on rebuilding teams out of necessity, but it is really hard for a freshman big guy to play on a winning team. So his work is cut out for him.”

“But there is no question in my mind over time that he can be an outstanding player,” Giannini added. “I love him, he is big, he is strong, he works hard, and he has a good feel for the game. I am real high on him; I am just realistic about how tough that freshman jump is for big guys. And the only this is he does have to get in better shape. He is pretty strong in everything else you would want him to do.”

Giannini is not the only part of the Explorers team that believes that Davis will help the team this year. Garvin Hunt believes that Davis is on the right track to becoming a great player. Hunt (6-10), who last played at Penn in 2009, is finishing out his eligibility at La Salle and sees the work that Davis is putting in to improve.

“He has progressed a lot, and he could definitely help us out this year as a freshman,” Hunt said. “I commend him because he works out a lot. After practice he has been doing probably a lot more work than any of us just because he is here before and after practice trying to drop some of that weight.”

One man on La Salle’s roster that knows about improving in his first year is 6-6 forward Rohan Brown, who redshirted the 2011-2012 season as a freshman, and is now eligible to play. He also sees how much Davis has progressed in the fall, and thinks he can contribute to the team in a big way.

“At first it was hard to him, but he picked up the system really quickly,” Brown said. He is getting stronger and more in shape. He is starting to understand what he needs to do to be a big man in college, so he has progressed a lot.

“He is definitely going to get better from now to the beginning of the season,” Brown said. “When the season starts he is going to be a big part of our team, getting in there are stopping other bigs. Using his size, he is a big guy, and we need that size.”

If Davis’s teammates are correct, he could be a big piece for the Explorers, who are looking for a solidified third forward behind Wright and Zack. Wright, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds a game only averaged 19.8 minutes a game despite starting 33 games. Both Wright and Zack averaged 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy.

Staying on the floor was an issue for La Salle’s big men last year, so solid minutes from Davis will help the Explorers immensely. There is no doubt that battling with Zack, Hunt, Brown and Wright everyday in practice will help Davis when the regular season starts.

Even though the big guys battle hard in the trenches during practice, there is no animosity that carries over the court lines. Davis is over 400 miles from his hometown of Garfield Heights, Ohio, but the freshman center feels comfort within the La Salle basketball program.

“I feel like I’m at home as far as the teammates go,” said Davis. “They treat me like a brother.”

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