East Or West Of The Atlantic?

Jermareo Davidson's life has been shrouded in death the last eight months since the tragic passing of his girlfriend. A few days prior to Christmas, the heartache was doubled for Jermareo as his older brother passed away.

The tragedies for Jermareo Davidson were well-chronicled in his senior Alabama basketball season. Coping with such horror is almost incomprehensible.

Alabama student athletic trainer Brandy Nicole Murphy died in a vehicular accident that occurred on November 11th while she and Jermareo were returning from a visit to an Atlanta hospital intensive care unit, where Davidson's older brother, Dewayne Watkins, was being nursed for a gunshot wound that eventually took his life.

Thursday night, Davidson has a chance for a new life in a city somewhere on the North American continent. The annual west of the Atlantic Ocean basketball league selection show–formally known as the NBA draft–will be held in New York City below Madison Square Garden at the WaMu Theatre. The televised event will be a precursor, determining the continent and which side of the Atlantic Ocean will be the new residence for Davidson.

Davidson has completed his Alabama basketball career and most expect him to continue playing the game on a professional level.

The NBA selection of players by nature is similar to the mating process as beauty is defined by one suitor, maybe a coach, general manager or scout that shows affection for an individual's round ball talents sometimes dismissing all others reasoning. Jermareo will be seeking the affirmation of one team that values his skills and abilities therefore granting him an avenue to continue playing the game of basketball in a new city.

Reviewing a career sprinkled with flashes of brilliance interspersed with solid efforts and games of mediocrity, Davidson became the fourth all-time leading shot blocker at a school renowned for defenders of the paint including Leon Douglas, Robert Horry, Antonio McDyess and Roy Rogers. He finished as the 10th all-time leading rebounder from a program littered through the years with NBA forwards drafted because of their backboard retrieving prowess.

Davidson's has been a starter in all the games he has played since the sixth game of his freshmen year showing varying degrees of improvement in all facets of basketball. His scoring numbers have increased dramatically from his freshmen year of five points per game to 14 as a junior and senior. His first year rebounding figures doubled from slightly over four rebounds per game to eight for the next three years. Double digit percentage free throw shooting improvement occurred during the course of four years from a below average of 57 as a freshmen to a career high of 77 as a senior. His first year performance warranted a place on the coaches' All-SEC freshmen team.

Two seminal moments punctuated Davidson's career and should be considered when evaluating the future potential of the 6-10, 230-pound forward. After UA forward Chuck Davis's knee injury during the SEC opener against Ole Miss in Davidson's junior year, the fortunes of the season depended in great part on Davidson's ability to emerge as a consistent low post leader for the Crimson Tide. He responded valiantly with 18 straight games of double digit scoring along with 11 games of eight rebounds or more, resulting in him being named a first team coaches' All-SEC performer. One highlight of the year included a 28-point outburst in a road victory against the Kentucky Wildcats and center Randolph Morris, presently a New York Knick.

Entering his senior year with high hopes for his team and impending professional future, the second influential moment involved off the court tragic family circumstances ending in two deaths which inevitably affected Davidson's impact although the numerical production of points (14) and rebounds (8) equaled his junior statistics. Missing practices and games because of the off the court tragedies and point guard Ronald Steele's ineffectiveness due to a knee injury curtailed Davidson's scoring opportunities as his season shooting percentage plummeted to a paltry 40 per cent. One of the bright moments of the year occurred on the road against the Bayou Bengals of LSU and NBA eligible draftee, Glenn "Big Baby" Davis. Davidson asserted himself with a 31-point, eight-rebound effort leading the Crimson Tide to victory. The overall senior year performance dictated him being only a second team coaches' All-SEC selection.

Participating in the Orlando NBA pre-draft camp in late May and early June, Davidson's three game numbers were 32 points on 13 out of 26 field goals attempted along with a perfect 6 for 6 at the free throw line. Playing approximately 20 minutes in each game, he gathered 16 rebounds and blocked 5 shots.

How does a scouting department reconcile the promising junior season with the less than satisfactory senior campaign? Will time heal the deep personal wounds of a young heart enabling a talented big man to continue his natural steady development interrupted by two catastrophic events in his life? Was the senior year career low shooting an aberration directly related to the point guard situation? Risks are evaluated by NBA teams comprised of personnel departments with years of experience assessing a myriad of similar situations. Teams able to accurately project the outcome of untenable circumstances associated with risk may reap substantial rewards.

The conventional wisdom of basketball aficionados speculates that Davidson will be a second round pick with significant potential still untapped. One league official stated that he thought the big man from Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., has first round caliber talent, although not in the top half of the draft. The two round format of the draft implemented in 1989, has produced 137 second round players since the year 2000 who have participated in at least one NBA game according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

NBA personnel said Davidson has shown signs of being able to shoot effectively from the perimeter and dribble drive to the rack. Shot blockers with a wing span of 7 feet, 4 inches are always welcomed into a league that yearns for a defensive post presence. Consistency, lack of focus, physical toughness and an inability to score in a crowd are areas of concern echoed by a number of league sources when asked about Davidson's deficiencies, as was the lack of body mass associated with power forwards. The maturation process will usually add weight and with the addition of a physical exercise regiment solely devoted to enhance the classic basketball frame, Davidson‚s body could potentially acquire the bulk appropriate for the rigors of professional sports.

Davidson has had some spectacular moments on the basketball court displaying all of his NBA skills and abilities when motivated and challenged. Will the allure of a secure financial future competing against the world's best accumulation of hoopsters be the inducement for a personal reincarnation as a dependable game to game performer? He has the major tools necessary for a good career but as one personnel man said, "If in fact he continues to work and grow at his game, he should be a professional basketball player. For him to reach his potential, he has to realize he is at the starting point. The key is that any player that is drafted if they don't improve at a reasonable rate, they probably won't play much or will have a short career. The trick is whenever you draft somebody, you're drafting them on the idea that they will be improved within a year and then the next year, get better. Certainly he falls in that category."

Perhaps the night of June 28 will be one of the most memorable for him when he is awarded a chance for a new life in a NBA city where they pay for consistent and reliable play. If the rebirth is not realized, Davidson will have a new life, perhaps located east across the Atlantic Ocean as part of a league in a foreign city.

Editor's Note: A.P. Steadham is a special features writer for ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com.


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