Improbable Run Continues for Muncie's Davis

A couple of months ago, there weren't a whole lot of positive things being said about Muncie Central or its star player, Jeremiah Davis. But after a turnaround that was capped by a sectional title last weekend, things have changed for one of IU's top Class of 2011 targets...

There are plenty of Indiana high school basketball stars that were supposed to still be playing this weekend.

Pike's Marquis Teague was expected to lead his team out of the Arsenal Tech sectional, but they were instead upset by Ben Davis H.S. Monday. Donnie Hale and second-ranked New Albany seemed like a shoe-in to win in Seymour, but were instead upended by Jeffersonville.

Add in Terre Haute North's Justin Gant (upset by Martinsville), Hamilton Southeastern's Gary Harris (upset by Noblesville), and Center Grove's Jonny Marlin (upset by Southport), and there are more big names than expected getting ready for the AAU season instead of this weekend's high school regionals.

One player whose AAU thoughts are still on hold is Muncie Central junior Jeremiah Davis, whose team continued its improbable late-season surge with three wins last week to advance out of the Class 4A New Castle regional. Davis averaged 17.3 points per game while helping his team to wins over Greenfield Central, Connersville and Pendleton Heights.

After starting the season 4-9, Muncie Central has rallied to win nine of its last ten, capped by the 48-43 win over Kellen Dunham's Pendleton Heights' squad in Saturday's sectional final. Now, Muncie Central advances to the Marion regional where it will face Lafayette Jeff (17-6) in the opener and potentially the winner of Carroll (19-3) and Ft. Wayne North Side (10-13) in the final.

"We were 3-8 at one time, and this was probably not in the picture for most people," Davis said.

The turnaround has been especially rewarding for Davis, who's faced his share of criticism this season thanks to the team's early-season struggles. The low point came in early December, when Davis was suspended for one game for his actions in the late stages of a 68-64 loss to Class A Monroe Central.

For a player who was offered by both Indiana and Kentucky following his freshman season and has been a coveted recruit ever since, the negative attention he received in December wasn't the kind he'd grown accustomed. His ability to rebound along with his team from those tough times is what makes their recent success so sweet.

"During the tough times, it was exactly that - it was rough," Davis said. "I think it changed, and everyone got the mindset of winning and listening and playing hard."

The memories of those tough times are also likely why he found himself fighting back tears in the closing seconds of the win over Pendleton Heights. Davis scored 10 of his 24 points in the final quarter, and made two free throws with 12 seconds remaining to stretch the lead to four. After a Pendleton Heights miss, Davis added another free throw as he battled his emotions.

"It hit me kind of hard, everything we've been through," Davis said. "Hopefully it doesn't end anytime soon. I love playing with my teammates and for Coach (Matt) Fine. But it was rough at the beginning."

Quick to congratulate Davis on his accomplishment was IU Coach Tom Crean, who talked with the junior guard Sunday night. While his message might have been a congratulatory one, he was also quick to reiterate how much he'd like to see him in an IU uniform once his prep career comes to a close.

"He wants to keep the best players in the state in state," Davis said. "That's what he said the first time he talked to me, and that's his pitch."

Davis said that's certainly a consideration, although one of many that he'll weigh as he ponders scholarship offers from Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Miami (Fla.), UNLV, DePaul, Xavier and Dayton.

"It's one of the many factors I'll consider," Davis said. "I'll look at the coach, the coaching style, the program. IU is clearly a big-time program."

The time to get serious about making a decision is nearing for Davis, who will once again be playing for Mark Adams' Team Indiana Elite Class of 2011 team this spring. But for the time being, he's more concerned about doing everything he can to keep Muncie Central's run going this weekend in Marion.

"It's still open right now," Davis said, echoing a sentiment he's shared for more than a year. "Whenever the stars fall in line, that's when I'll make my decision."


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