Don’t Confuse Devo Davis with Mike Qualls When It Comes to Motives Behind NBA Draft Declaration

Davonte Davis, Devo Davis, Arkansas basketball, NBA Draft
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — On the heels of more March heroics, Davonte Davis will test the NBA Draft waters while maintaining his eligibility with Arkansas basketball.

The Jacksonville native made the announcement via Twitter late Friday night and made sure to point out that he was still considering returning to the Razorbacks for his senior year.

“Since picking up a basketball for the first time, I had two dreams: playing for the Razorbacks and playing in the NBA,” Davis wrote. “I consider myself very fortunate to accomplish the first goal, but now is the time for me to start preparing for my next goal.”

The deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the NBA Draft and maintain their collegiate eligibility is 11:59 p.m. ET on May 31. That would give Davis an opportunity to participate in the G League Elite Camp (May 13-14) and/or NBA Draft Combine (May 15-21) in Chicago if he’s invited.

Davis said he will go through the process before making “an informed decision in the coming weeks.”

Regardless of the direction he goes, Davis has made his mark on the Arkansas basketball program. Originally committed to Oklahoma State, he flipped to the Razorbacks and was part of their four-star quartet of signees in 2020.

When he arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas hadn’t advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 1996, but Davis has helped it reach the Sweet 16 in each of his three seasons — including two trips to the Elite Eight.

He cemented his place in Arkansas lore by knocking down the game-winning shot in the closing seconds against Oral Roberts to send the Razorbacks to the Elite Eight as a freshman and then further solidified his legacy by playing a huge role in their wins over Illinois and Kansas for a surprise run to the Sweet 16 this year.

Over his three-year career, Davis has averaged 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Listed as a junior by the Razorbacks, he could technically play another two years because of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.

Why Devo Davis Should, Shouldn’t Return

Simply put, Davonte Davis is not viewed as an NBA prospect at this juncture. He is nowhere to be found on any two-round mock drafts and hasn’t generated much buzz that he could sneak into the second round, which has two fewer picks than normal due to the Bulls and 76ers forfeiting their selections because of tampering.

Perhaps that could change with a strong performance in the pre-draft process, which would likely start with the G League Elite Camp. Last year, Jaylin Williams was the only Arkansas basketball player among the 76 invites to the NBA Draft Combine, with JD Notae one of 44 players invited to the G League Elite Camp. Au’Diese Toney and Stanley Umude weren’t invited to either.

Needless to say, Davis faces an uphill battle when it comes to making an NBA roster in 2023-24. It is much more likely that he ends up in the G League or playing overseas.

The latter of those two options would be better from a financial perspective because many overseas leagues have six-figure salaries, compared to the typical $40,500 contracts in the G League. However, that would require moving far from home and immersing himself in a completely different culture in which the majority may or may not fluently speak English.

Playing in the G League, while not being as lucrative, would at least ensure he stays in the Western Hemisphere and, in theory, give him a more direct route to the NBA. That is easier said than done, though.

Mason Jones has put up incredible numbers in the G League the last two years and was on a two-way deal with the Lakers at one point, but appeared in only four games in 2021-22. Umude is averaging 15.4 points and shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc, but all that earned him was a 10-day contract with the Pistons earlier this season.

It might behoove Davis to play his senior year at Arkansas for multiple reasons.

First of all, he would remain in his home state and be playing in front of nearly 20,000 fans every night, compared to the 3,000 or so who attend G League games.

Davis is a local hero with an infectious smile and outgoing personality, making him a very marketable player from an NIL perspective. Indeed, he’s already inked deals with JJ’s Grill and the Gwatney Chevrolet dealership. While he may not make as much as he would playing professionally, he would at least continue complementing the scholarship that already pays for his living expenses, with perhaps bigger deals than in previous years given he’s clearly become a face of the program and burnished a “Mr. March” reputation.

That’s a stark contrast to a similar decision just eight years ago, when Michael Qualls chose to forgo his senior year in order to provide for his son.

It’s also worth noting that many experts believe the 2024 draft class is much weaker than the current year, which would presumably give Davis a better chance at climbing into the NBA Draft.

On the flip side, Davis may feel like his stock is as high as it will ever be and now is the best time to begin his professional career. That thought process likely led to Jones and Notae leaving eligibility on the table.

After all, in addition to being a shutdown defender, Davis evolved into a legitimate offensive threat for the Razorbacks this season. He has always been very good at driving to the basket and knocking down mid-range shots, but he added a 3-point shot this season. After shooting just 23.0% from beyond the arc over his first 81 career games, Davis shot 41.2% on 4.6 attempts over the final 21 games this season.

Who’s Next for Arkansas Basketball?

Davonte Davis is the third Arkansas basketball player to reveal his plans for 2023-24 this offseason and he won’t be the last.

On Thursday, freshman Nick Smith Jr. declared for the NBA Draft and Trevon Brazile announced he would return for another season with the Razorbacks.

Freshman Anthony Black has yet to announce anything, but he is widely projected as a lottery pick and expected to declare. Most mock drafts have him going in the top 10.

Another player who appears in most mock drafts is Ricky Council IV, who is viewed more as a second-round prospect. That said, Bleacher Report has him sneaking into the first round at No. 27 overall.

Once seen as a potential first-round pick, Jordan Walsh is now projected to be selected in the second round or not at all. Throw in his comments immediately following the loss to UConn and there is speculation that he may return for his sophomore year.

In addition to Davis, the Mitchell twins — Makhi and Makhel — and Jalen Graham are veterans who could potentially move on to the professional ranks, but aren’t seen as NBA Draft prospects and would likely be forced to play in the G League or overseas.

The transfer portal could also be in play for those guys, as well as lightly used freshmen Joseph Pinion, Barry Dunning Jr. and Derrian Ford.

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