Davis emerges as third big man

If the Alabama Crimson Tide expects to achieve as much in the SEC this season as last, one thing is certain: another post player must step forward as a back-up for senior starters Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker when needed.

Reggie Rambo, a 6-7 junior, got the first chance. Next it appeared lanky 6-10 freshman Evan Brock would be the first option off the bench. But now it looks like the man is Chuck Davis, a 6-8, 230-pound freshman from Selma, will be the primary backup to Dudley and Walker for the rest of the season.

After seeing very limited minutes in the Tide's first nine games, Tide coach Mark Gottfried called on Davis early in the first half of the Tide's game at Utah. He didn't score a point, but Davis pulled down two rebounds and gave the Dudley and Walker some valuable rest.

That effort earned Davis major minutes in the Tide's win over Xavier last Saturday. Davis played 21 minutes versus Xavier, scoring four points and pulling down four rebounds. The true freshman power forward also played a major role in holding All-American forward David West scoreless in the second half.

Despite his stern look here, Davis has been pleased with his recent play on the court.

Davis attributes his increase in minutes to a better performance in preparations off the court.

"I started doing better in practice," Davis said. "I was a little shaky at the start and had some injuries, but I got over it and he decided to give me a chance."

Part of Davis' problem was due to the fact that he didn't report conditioned well enough to perform at the high level of intensity required for Division I basketball.

"I was not in good shape at the start of the season," Davis said. "We did some extra running after practice and everything and I got back in shape. Now I think I'm comfortable in going out there and playing whatever minutes I have to play."

Gottfried recruited Davis with the intent of playing him major minutes next season after Dudley and Walker graduate. Early this season he saw only limited action, and for Davis to shoulder increased minutes, he had to play himself into the rotation.

Gottfried finally saw what he was looking for from the true freshman in practice, and Davis' contributions versus Utah and Xavier were the result.

"I thought Chuck Davis came in and gave us some great minutes," Gottfried said after Saturday's game. "About 5-to-7 days ago, before we went to Utah, Chuck came back from the (Christmas) holidays and the light had come on, so to speak. He is practicing harder, enjoying things more.

"He has earned a chance to play."

The importance of a third big man was proven early in the Xavier game when Walker committed two quick fouls. But it's something Gottfried recognized all along that his team needed to have.

"I don't think there is any question (a third big man is needed)," Gottfried said. "We have found ourselves in a few games with Kenny or Erwin where they have to come out for rests or because of foul trouble. We have played Evan a little bit. When a team has two post players like Xavier did with (Anthony) Myles and West, it is tough to put (a shorter) Emmett Thomas or (a lighter) Evan Brock on one of those guys.

"Chuck gives us a little bit more physical size in there and Saturday he played some great minutes."

Davis believes his playing time at Utah and at home against Xavier has prepared him well for the upcoming Southeastern Conference wars, where near-capacity crowds will be on hand to watch Alabama play the rest of the season.

For Bama to contend for another championship, they'll need Davis to provide back-up minutes on the inside.

"The first time I played in Utah I was nervous," Davis said. "That really helped me Saturday against Xavier. Saturday there was no jitters and the butterflies were gone."

Listed at 6-8, Davis' wingspan of seven feet, two inches allows him to play much taller. After a full season of weight training, he is expected to develop into a formidable inside presence.

Davis points out that going up against Dudley and Walker, two of the SEC's best inside players, every day in practice has helped him prepare for what he sees in games.

"I'm glad they are here," Davis said. "I came here and had to get used to things at first. I'm always used to being the biggest man on the court. It helped me that they were seniors and they were experienced. I've come a long ways since I've been here working with them."

Davis will have the attention to himself soon enough next season, when he inherits the spotlight with the graduation of Dudley and Walker. But it could come even sooner than that, especially if an unfortunate injury were to occur or if either Walker or Dudley is sidelined with foul trouble.

However, Davis is confident in his role. "I'm ready," he said.


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