I first watched Tyler Davis in Anaheim, Calif., at the opening EYBL event of 2013. I noticed him immediately with the Texas Titans and didn't recognize his face, so I wondered if he was a sleeper big man from the Class of 2014. So I was particularly intrigued to discover that he was just a rising junior, given his strength and aggression at that early stage.
He continued to impress that spring and summer, competing fiercely against 17-under competition and proving to be a bully in the best sense of the word. The Texas native entered his junior season with scholarship offers from the major in-state schools along with heavy interest from Arizona, Kansas and others.
All that said, Davis entered the 2014 travel season with nagging questions pertaining to his offensive ability. Everyone knew he was a defender and rebounder, but could he score?
The regular season returns this year were mixed. He was efficient as always, but he averaged only 13 points per game — a one-point difference from his 12-point per game average in 2013. In other words, he continued to chug along doing certain things very well and other things just okay.
And then the Peach Jam tipped off in July. Davis elevated his game in North Augusta, S.C., that week, scoring 19 points per contest in six games while shooting 56 percent from the field. Even more striking, after pulling down an underwhelming six boards per contest during the regular EYBL season, he raised his numbers to 11 boards per outing at the Peach Jam.
A big man going for 13 and six is fine, but 19 and 11 puts him into a new category. Such was Davis' summer, and he now ranks No. 24 in the senior class with a chance to make some All-American games next spring. He committed to Texas A&M in late August over a host of major programs and could become a star in College Station.
Davis is a monster. He checks in at 6-9, 270 pounds, so obviously no one is going to push him out of position easily. He also plays a style that reaps rewards from that size, as he can be among the most fearsome rebounders in the country. He's not just big and strong, he boasts outstanding reflexes — always critical for long or awkward bounces off the rim.
|True big men are hard to find, but Davis literally makes his presence felt|
Meanwhile, he also posts strongly on offense, possesses excellent hands and finishes well at the rim. Including both 2013 and 2014, his career EYBL field goal shooting was 59 percent. He's remarkably efficient and, as evidenced by his Peach Jam numbers, can be prolific as well.
Davis does some of his best work with his feet. He uses a drop step and reverse pivot to get shots in traffic, and from here he should continue to improve. He doesn't possess truly elite feet in terms of being nimble, but he's ahead of the curve and particularly at 270 pounds.
His toughness pays all-around dividends and imparts a physical style onto his team. Even when executing less noticeable duties, such as setting a high ball screen, Davis exudes physicality and loves to lay a whipping on opponents.
Davis is a short 6-9. He may be only 6-8, in fact, and regardless he doesn't possess great length. Additionally, he lacks explosive leaping ability and can get snuffed by long-armed shotblockers. As his peers gain strength and close the physical gap, issues with scoring in traffic could arise into more troubling prominence.
He also doesn't move with great elasticity and likely never will be a body control finisher. Maybe that's less important given his power, but nevertheless it's worth noting. In terms of skills, he needs to expand his shooting range and definitely needs to improve his free throw shooting, which was just 64 percent in 45 career games on the EYBL circuit.
The other question pertains to his surprisingly low rebounding output during this year's EYBL regular season. There's reason to believe it was a fluke — he rebounded well during the 2013 season and, of course, there was this summer's Peach Jam — but clearly he'll have to be consistent in that regard to be an immediate impact player for the Aggies.
Let's face it: A team that falls outside the Ken Pomeroy top 100 (as TAMU did last season) needs a talent upgrade. The Aggies signed a solid class last year led by point guard Alex Robinson, and Davis continues the building project at A&M.
Davis possesses the physique and style to start as a freshman. The Aggies ranked No. 307 in adjusted tempo last year, and that style of play actually may work best for him. He's a grinding, slug-it-out big man, not a fleet-footed athlete who excels in the open floor. The tougher the game, the more valuable Davis' presence will be in the middle.
If he's the scoring and rebounding machine he proved to be versus Peach Jam competition, he may not require a long stay in college before he's ready for the NBA. Davis didn't play to that level in the regular season, however, so whether he has improved or perhaps just had an uncharacteristically hot week remains to be seen.
But even before that week we'd have projected Davis as a huge score for A&M, and now he appears to be more critical to the program than ever.