Kyle Davis had an exceptional sequence of performances at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run 'N Slam in Fort Wayne last weekend. Playing on a Mac Irvin Fire 17U team loaded with talented players Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Sterling Brown and others, Davis played more minutes and did more damage than anyone.
New Illinois coach John Groce wants to play pressure defense. Few can pressure the ball better than the 6'-0" Davis. In fact, he prefers defense and was a thorn in the side of ball handlers all weekend.
"Defense is my number one strength right now in this game. I love to play defense. Defense comes first, then offense."
Last year, Davis played mostly off the ball. His game was limited to driving to the hoop, but he often amazed with his ability to burst past defenders and find small openings to get the ball into the basket. If anything, he is an even better penetrator this year.
He may not be as fast as former Illini star Dee Brown, but he's quicker than most defenders. And he finishes a high percentage, proving one doesn't have to be tall to get a shot off in traffic.
"To me, there's no difference whether I'm big or small. I'm still going to find a way to get to the hole."
Davis has added more consistency to his outside shot, making him doubly effective with his drives.
"The thing I've improved the most in the last year is my jump shot. Shooting with a hand in my face, shooting with a defender in my face, making my own shot, getting my own space.
"I've been working every day with Coach Nick (Irvin) on my jump shot and ball handling. It continues to get better."
Irvin not only works with the Fire, he is the basketball coach at Morgan Park High School. Davis transferred there from Hyde Park during the school year and encountered eligibility problems. He is making up for lost time now.
"It's been a long spring, and I'm trying to get better. I sat out a couple months after my transfer from Hyde Park to Morgan Park, so I have to continue to work harder. I'm waiting to see if I will be eligible for next season. If not, I'll just stay in the gym and work harder."
Davis appears to thrive on work. At least, he is putting in the time. He wants to become a true point guard, and he is dedicated to the process.
"I want to work on my ball handling skills to become an official point guard."
The best point guards can think simultaneously of their own shot and finding open teammates, allowing them to choose the best option. Davis feels he has those qualities.
"I always look to set of my teammates. If they don't have a play, then I go."
Morgan Park has other guards who can play point. But assuming he regains eligibility, Davis is confident of his skills and willing to do whatever the coach prefers.
"We all play point. I will still get mine on defense, so right now it really don't matter to me."
Groce has reached out to Davis through his coach.
"Coach Nick has told me that Illinois is very interested in me. Right now, I'm just waiting to see what's going on."
Davis agrees his attacking style, ability to hit long bombs and play pressure defense fits well with the new Illini offensive and defensive schemes.
"I'd like to play an up-tempo game in their gym. It's not a problem for me."
Davis now has a Nebraska offer, but he is likely to see that list grow exponentially if he continues to play like he did last weekend.