NEW ALBANY — De’Ron Davis’ path from top-ranked eighth-grade player in the country to Indiana recruit was littered with potential potholes.
Indiana coach Tom Crean offered Davis a scholarship as an eighth-grader, following a summer tournament in Indianapolis. But loyalty was tested on both sides. The 6-10 Davis, a forward from Aurora, Colo., saw his stock drop in various national rankings.
“I was No. 1 in the country and then I started dropping,” said Davis, who was in New Albany on Thursday night for the “Night of the Future Stars” event ahead of Friday night’s Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville. “(Crean) said, ‘I don’t see why you are dropping.’ He sees stuff in me that I don’t even see.”
Davis, who suffered a wrist injury earlier this week and was held out Thursday, eventually lived up to his billing in high school. His high school team, Overland, won back-to-back Class 5A state championships, and he was named the state’s Mr. Basketball after his senior season. Davis finished his career with more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds and set a state record with 441 blocked shots.
But Davis’ loyalty to Crean also could have wavered. Mississippi State came on strong late in his recruitment. Several programs, Davis said Thursday, attempted to play up Crean’s perceived job insecurity.
“I heard it a lot, especially coming down to (signing day in November),” he said. “They would say this and that, but coach Crean has been the only coach who was there since my eighth-grade year. I walked into the gym my first time working out at Overland and had just decided to stop playing football and got the offer from coach Crean right out of the gate. Because he stuck with me, I had to stick with him.”
Davis said that loyalty extends off the court as well. He relayed a story from last fall, when Crean came to Colorado for a recruiting visit. Before coming to Overland for practice, Crean stopped by to visit with Davis’ grandfather, who was in poor health at the time and died in December.
“That stood out to me a lot,” he said.
Davis has been getting familiar this week with fellow Indiana recruit Curtis Jones, who is also participating in the Derby Classic. Jones, a 6-4 shooting guard from Virginia, is ranked No. 63 in the 2016 class by Rivals. Davis is No. 33 in the class.
Davis said he was a bit surprised but pleased to hear 6-10 Thomas Bryant will return for his sophomore season at Indiana.
“Him eating down low is going to open up opportunities for me,” Davis said. “My expectations are that I’m going to come in and be a big impact freshman.”
Jones said he watched every game Indiana played this season. He’ll come in with a reputation as a guard who can shoot from the 3-point line.
“I think there’s a chance for me to come in and play,” he said. “They have guys who can score and create for others, and I think I’m kind of the same way.”
Indianapolis area standouts C.J. Walker of Tech, Joey Brunk of Southport and Eron Gordon of Cathedral also participated in Thursday’s event, which included a 3-point shootout, 2-on-2 competition and slam dunk contest.
Of the 20 players participating, only the 6-2 Gordon remains uncommitted for college. Gordon said Missouri has been in touch with him this week and he’s also considering Marquette and Seton Hall. Butler is no longer in the picture.
“I hope to have something decided here in the next two or three weeks,” Gordon said. “I’m just making sure I can make a great decision.”
Gordon said he’s not limiting himself to those three schools. Prep school is not an option, he said.
The New Albany team, which won the Class 4A state championship two weeks ago, was honored Thursday. The 44th annual Derby Classic tips at 7 p.m. Friday night at Freedom Hall. Tickets are $20 at the door.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.