Three-star small forward Davon Dillard knew that he wanted to commit to California before he even stepped on the plane to start his official visit – an official visit that came to fruition after “about a week or so” of talking with his fellow official visitors – five-star prospects Ivan Rabb and Caleb Swanigan.
The three – Dillard refers to Rabb and Swanigan as “my brothers” -- met through different avenues. One of the top athletes in the EYBL this past summer, Dillard crossed paths with Rabb, and the two became fast friends. A Gary, Ind., native, Dillard has played with and against Swanigan for quite some time in the region.
“We made a group chat,” Dillard says, “and we said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Though Dillard already knew he wanted to commit before stepping foot on campus, as soon as he arrived, he knew he was about to make the right decision, for him.
“I feel like I’m at home,” Dillard says. “Like I’m in a family.”
Nothing better to make him feel like family, as it were, than experiencing the visit with his two brothers.
“It was awesome,” Dillard says. “So much fun.”
Even more fun was the game that the trio got to watch on Sunday, as the Bears came from down eight points with 14:14 left to up 10 points with 8:46 left in the game, punctuated by a Jabari Bird three.
“It was nice,” Dillard says. “They played great, fought back and we was like, ‘Let’s go!’”
As the fervor swept over them, Dillard knew that this was the place, and these were the coaches, that he wanted to play for.
“It motivates me to see them fight and play hard,” says Dillard.
A big part of Dillard’s commitment was the persistence of head coach Cuonzo Martin and assistant Tracy Webster, who started recruiting Dillard while they were still at Tennessee.
“That showed me that he was serious, and that he saw in me what I saw in myself,” says Dillard.
What Martin saw was an elite athlete who, like Martin, prizes toughness.
“He saw a kid that can come in right away and can change any program, and will go on to be an NBA player,” says Dillard. “He’s a great coach. He builds NBA players. He makes boys into men.”
For Dillard, that toughness came from enduring through an arduous childhood. Like Martin, who grew up in East St. Louis, Dillard has been through his fair share of adversity, and that’s part of the reason why the two bonded so closely: They both had to grow up ahead of schedule.
“I grew up and lost my father at the age of eight,” says Dillard. “Going through so much with my mom, being a single parent, taking care of four kids, living off welfare checks and food stamps at points, and just having to be a father of the house, and help out at such a young age. God has brought me and my family through so much. It’s all God.”
Both Dillard and Martin, now, have come out the other side of those tests, and now, both are Bears.
“We talk about it all the time,” Dillard says. “That’s why he respects me, and has so much faith in me.”
That's why Martin kept pursuing Dillard, and that's why Dillard has so much faith in Martin, making that commitment to Cal mean that much more.
"It means a lot," Dillard says. "I'm excited to be the start of a legacy."
Does that legacy include his two brothers, Rabb and Swanigan?
"We'll see," Dillard laughs.