Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The word “winning” hasn’t been closely associated with Towson men’s basketball lately.
Their newest recruit hopes to change all of that.
John Davis, a 6-foot-6 forward from South Philadelphia powerhouse Neumann-Goretti, chose the Tigers on Monday night–and though it’s been over 18 years since the school has finished above .500, it’s winning that the athletic wing plans to bring to Maryland.
“I’ll bring hard work, my work ethic, my rebounding, my scoring and I think more importantly I think I’ll bring down there a winner, a winning spirit,” Davis told CoBL by phone after Tweeting his decision. “Try to change the team around to a winning atmosphere.”
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Saints coach Carl Arrigale said. “Winning matters, it really matters to him…you can say it, but he plays like it matters.”
Davis made the decision to attend Towson after taking his official visit to the school this weekend. He came away with the feeling that he’d found the right school, discussing his decision with Arrigale on Monday afternoon before informing Towson coach Pat Skerry and his staff after a team workout.
“Before I went down there, i really liked them a lot…but when I went down it was just the icing on the cake,” he said. “I had a real good relationship with Coach Skerry the head coach and Luke Murray the assistant coach, they just really kept pushing, they didn’t take no for an answer, so that just really excited me.”
Last season, the undersized power forward averaged 12.9 points in leading the Saints to a 28-3 record and second-consecutive state title. A tenacious defender and rebounder, Davis is an ultra-athletic wing whose competitive nature could make him a force to reckon with in the CAA.
“They’re getting a guy with a big heart, with a high motor, understands winning and he’s a great kid on top of that,” Arrigale said. “His will is every bit as good as his skill and that’s what makes him a special player.
“The big knock on him was his size for the game he likes to play, and this’ll be the fourth year in the locker room with him practicing, and I tell you he won’t let himself fail. A lot of people I think were a little worried at his size, would he be able to do it night in and night out, and certainly he’s going to be fine. He’s gonna do it. People just don’t really know how much he really wants it.”
One of the youngest teams in Division I basketball last season won a single game in Pat Skerry’s first year as head coach last season, but the Tigers are already primed for a big improvement in Year Two. In addition to the maturation of players like sophomore Marcus Damas (12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Skerry adds three BCS transfers in Jerrelle Benimon (Georgetown), Mike Burwell (South Florida) and Bilal Dixon (Providence, all of whom will be eligible this season. Still, when Davis suits up as a Tiger for the first time next year it’s going to be for a school that has just one 20-win season in its history and could have as many as ten scholarship underclassmen.
“We kinda gonna start from the bottom,” he said. “They didn’t have a good year at all last year, so they’re just rebuilding and I’m just one of the building pieces. (We’re) getting a couple of good players…so it came down to their building the arena, $50 million arena, so it’s really on the up down there. Good football team and now we can start off with basketball to take off.”
Davis said he picked Towson over offers from a host of CAA and A-10 schools, naming “Robert Morris, Fordham, Florida Atlantic, Boston University (and) La Salle.” He’s interested in studying business and sport management, but for now he gets to focus on his final year of high school and bringing that third state championship to Neumann-Goretti.
“Now that I’m committed I just think that I can stay focused on my books and stay focused on my team and us winning our league, city championship and the states, I won’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “Now that I’m committed, I can just be focused on the other things that I need to be focused on.”
Davis is the third commit for Towson’s 2013 class, joining 6-8 Fishburne Military (Ga.) F Walter Foster and 6-5 South Shore (N.Y.) wing Shamiek Sheppard, who Davis said he’d played against at various AAU events.
“I think Shamiek is very talented,” Davis said. “He’s got a great body, real physical, I think he’ll bring that same intensity and work ethic to the team as I will. I think if we get a couple guys like that, it’s gonna be real hard to stop.”