In general, the media enjoys hyperbole. When Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes burst onto the NFL scene in 2018, there was talk that he could one day be the GOAT (Greatest of All-time). Then the Chiefs got hammered by Tampa Bay and Tom Brady in last year’s Super Bowl, and the Chiefs stared slow this year, and he was suddenly “washed up.” The Chiefs’ run was over, its offense throughly figured out.
But then Kansas City wins eight straight games and Mahomes plays well, and they are the trendy Super Bowl pick. After Sunday night’s thrilling win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Playoff game, he is his dominant self again and back headed toward GOAT status.
When Arkansas sophomore guard Davonte (Devo) Davis, a Jacksonville product, enjoyed a huge second half to his freshman season and helped Arkansas to an Elite 8 run, there were some crowning him as the next big superstar and others who couldn’t ignore his striking resemblance to a young Michael Jordan in appearance, gait and game.
In the offseason he was hyped on the Arkansas basketball program’s official social media and reaped the rewards of the new NIL legislation, signing a deal with his hometown Gwatney Chevrolet. He had all the makings of a star.
That is, until the season started. Through the ups and downs and ups of this Arkansas basketball season, it’s become increasingly clear Davis isn’t the straw that stirs the drink; he may not even be the cocktail napkin the glass sits on. Just as he was last year, Davis fifth on the team in scoring (averages 9.7 ppg. However, he does dish out a team-leading 3.6 assists and is rebounding at a 4.7 per game clip.
Many figured he’d be well over double figures scoring and be a one of the main scoring options based on what happened last March. However, for some reason, things just haven’t clicked for Davis where his engine is roaring wide open.
The Ups and Downs of Davonte Davis
Saturday night’s overtime win against Texas A&M was a microcosm of his season. In the first half, Davis was blocked on what seemed to be an easy layup or dunk and then later committed a charging foul while driving the lane and dishing out to an open shooter. He only played 20 minutes in the win but was on the floor in crunch time and picked up a steal and was fouled at the other end late in the game.
With Arkansas clinging to a one-point lead and inbounding underneath their own basket, the Hogs turned to Davis, and he got open, handled the inbounds pass and zipped a half court pass to Stanlye Umode, who dunked the ball on what may be the play of the year so far. We won’t talk about he maybe should have ‘taken a knee’ there and run out the clock.
It was a heads up play by Davis, which preserved the win, even if he only scored four points. His four fouls, however, didn’t help keep him on the floor. Over Arkansas’ current four-game win streak, he’s only scored in double-figures once, a 15-point performance in the 87-43 stomping of Missouri, in which he also had an impressive floor game with six rebounds and four assists.
From a coaching perspective, winning is winning. Davis hasn’t needed to rack up points. Thanks to the transfer portal, Razorbacks basketball Eric Musselman picked up some scoring punch with Umude and Au’Diese Toney. Returner JD Notae is among the tops in the SEC in scoring with nearly 19 ppg. He’s been a big star so far along with Jaylin Williams.
Devo Davis’ Future with Arkansas Basketball
When Davis injected his intensity and infectious smile into the NCAA Tournament run, it automatically shot expectations through the roof, but he wouldn’t be the first player to enjoy a big moment only to fall back to earth. Two things to remember here – this is an entirely different team with a brand-new cast of characters who have spent the first part of the season finding themselves. Two, he is only a sophomore. In our microwave society, and the era of the one-and-done, we expect players to blossom quickly.
Davis’ erratic play may be in part due to being inserted into a playmaker role instead of last season where he operated more on the wing. This team doesn’t really have a true point guard. Things should be totally different next season when Nick Smith, who is one of the top high school guards in the county, joins the Hogs.
For now, though, for Arkansas to make the same kind of run of last season, Davis is going to need to step up. Whether that means shouldering more of the playmaking duties and making better decisions or freeing himself up to score more, he’s going to have to find some of that magic from last March. He’s got the potential to make a major impact on the game. It’s up to Davis and the Arkansas basketball coaching staff to figure out how to best use him effectively so Arkansas can be as diverse as possible.
Maybe we overestimated Davonte Davis’ jump to superstardom, but he could be one of the better role players in the SEC if he can figure out his role and commit to it. Unlike what some of the NFL pundits did to Patrick Mahomes, though, I’m not giving up on Davis being a star – even if it doesn’t happen this year.
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