Solid offensive play from the six-foot-ten center is one of the reasons the Tigers are off to a 5-0 start this season after ramming Colorado State 84-54 on Monday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Davis has always been exceptional as a shot blocker and a factor with his hustle and defensive skills, however, this season he is becoming more of an offensive threat.
As a freshman, Davis averaged 4.8 points per game. He improved to 5.6 as a sophomore and 6.3 as a junior. This season he is averaging 11.2 points per contest and is making an impressive 66.7 percent of his field goal attempts. He has developed into enough of a scoring threat that opposing teams have to think twice about doubling on Auburn's best inside scorers, Brandon Robinson and Marco Killingsworth.
Kyle Davis has been a key contributor to the Tigers for four seasons.
Coach Cliff Ellis says that Davis being healthy in the offseason gave the center time to develop his offensive skills and work out more in the weight room to become bigger and stronger. The senior center agrees with his coach that being stronger is making a difference.
"It has helped me a lot," Davis says when asked for reasons why he is being more effective as an offensive threat this season. "It has helped me to bang with a lot of the big guys. In beginning when I was playing against guys like Udonis Haslem (former University of Florida center), it kind of showed that it was one of my weaknesses. Being in the weight room and stuff and getting stronger, and being injury-free, is one of the main reasons."
In Auburn's lopsided victory on Monday night, Davis was challenged by Colorado State's Matt Nelson, a seven-footer who is considered a NBA prospect. Davis hit seven of nine shots coming off the bench and led all scorers in the game with 21 points in just 24 minutes of action. Nelson led the Rams with 12 points, hitting 5-11 field goals, but was never a major factor in the game.
"It gave me a test to let me know where my offensive and defensive game is," Davis says of the matchup vs. Nelson. "I am glad I had that test. From now on I am going to build on it and look back on this game at what I could have done better."
Davis passed the offensive test with flying colors with his collegiate career single game scoring high. Additionally, he was a force on the boards with a game-high nine rebounds while adding three assists, one blocked shot and one steal. His previous high point total was 19 vs. Purdue in the 2001 NIT.
Ellis says that Davis is becoming a better all-around player as a senior. "Well, Kyle can do a lot of things," the coach says. "I think that one thing that Kyle has done this year is put on 18 pounds and that makes a difference." Ellis says that the extra power caused matchup problems for Colorado State's big men, particularly their younger players, when trying to guard Davis near the basket.
"There is no doubt that Kyle's 18 pounds that he put on makes a difference in being stronger down low," Ellis says. "I thought that strength was a factor. The guys who had the games (vs. Colorado State) were Marco (Killingsworth) and Kyle. Marco is strong. His strength is a factor. Kyle is strong."
The Tigers are 5-0 going into Sunday's home game against another team from the state of Colorado and the Mountain West Conference--Air Force. Tipoff time is 2 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Air Force is a team that relies on a patient, Princeton style motion offense and good teamwork to be successful. Davis says his squad is developing good teamwork, too, as three newcomers have blended into the returning group from last year's Sweet 16 team.
Davis notes that the junior college transfers have done a good job of filling the big shoes of last year's seniors, Marquis Daniels and Derrick Bird. Guard Ian Young and forwards Ronny LeMelle and Quinnel Brown are seeing significant playing time early in their first Auburn season.
"The newcomers, they have stepped up big for us," Davis says. "They have come in and have given us good, quality minutes and everything like that. When we get Lewis Monroe back and Dwayne Curtis back next semester, we are going to keep building on, and building on and hope to have a great season."
Monroe is the returning starter at point guard, who is recovering from a broken bone in his foot suffered in a preseason injury. Curtis is a true freshman center who is expected to gain his academically eligibility in time to play starting Dec. 20th for Auburn's road trip to Las Vegas.
"We have got a lot more shooters and a lot better scorers," Davis says. "We have a great inside game with Marco Killingsworth, Brandon Robinson and myself with Rodney Tucker. We just have guys who can step up and hit big shots when we need it."
As much as Davis has improved on offense, don't look for him to be the leading scorer on most nights for the Tigers, but he has improved enough offensively to make Auburn and more difficult team to defend than the Tigers were last year when the center was on the court.