For one Ram, this game was about meeting a challenge head on and making progress toward becoming a high-major prospect. Victor Davila, the Rams 6-foot-8 sophomore standout from Puerto Rico, elevated his level of play and made his stand inside against Oak Hill.
Earlier this season in Starmount's loss to Oak Hill, Davila was held scoreless in the first half of the game. "I was kind of intimidated," Davila told Scout.com.
Understandable, the veteran of the Puerto Rican national team, doesn't face the kind of athletes and size inside on a regular basis that Oak Hill throws at you. His numbers, while modest the first time around, weren't so bad considering his age (turned 17 this fall) and his inexperience against that caliber of player.
Regardless, those around Davila were hoping to see another step in his maturation process Wednesday night. "I'd like to see him just step up and do more," Starmount coach Kent Phillips said a few days before the rematch. "In a game he's too unselfish."
In warm ups Wednesday night, Davila's body language wasn't telling one way or the other what he'd do. Once it was tipped up, his night began modestly but his confidence grew each time down the court. "There wasn't an awe factor," Phillips said of his star.
Over the course of 4 quarters, Davila continued working almost methodically. Every Oak Hill player who defended him in the post either gave up a bucket to Davila or sent him to the free throw line. By night's end, he accumulated 28 points and we credited him with 13 boards. He shot 19 free throws, making 10 of them. He finished 9-for-16 from the field and hit a pair of jump hooks in the second half.
"He looked very intimidated the first game but not last night," Oak Hill's Steve Smith said. "He played with our guys last night."
The real challenge for Davila, now that he's passed his second Oak Hill exam, will be to raise his level of play against lesser opponents and begin dishing out dominating performances in-state. He's a talented player who should factor into 2008 Top 100 lists as time goes on.
Playing against Oak Hill the way he did certainly will give him the confidence to expand his game. There's room to become a more powerful finisher, rebound out of his area and polish up his pivot game. While keeping in mind that he's just a sophomore now his last outing will be the marker by which he's evaluated in the future.
"I think his junior year is going to be his breakout season," Phillips said.
Interest in Davila is mounting as teams see him in action. Appalachian State has a connection through an assistant coach and will hang in there as long as it can. Kansas stopped by to see him this fall and he's already been to Wake Forest's campus. North Carolina State has inquired and Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg was in the gym Wednesday night. Michigan coach Tommy Amaker was evaluating an Oak Hill player but inquired about Davila through the coach after watching him.
Evaluating young big men, for the most part, is a multi-step process. They tend to develop at different rates and measuring their progression can be difficult. However, by all accounts, Davila made strides with his game and his confidence this week and that's a real positive sign for himself, his coach, his team and his long term potential.
"He knew this was his chance to make a statement," Phillips said.