Davis is key piece to Aggies' puzzle

After earning the starting position and more playing time as Big 12 Conference play got started, Aggie forward Bryan Davis is making the most of the opportunity, leading the Aggies back into NCAA Tournament talk in the process. Aggie Websider visits with Mark Turgeon about Davis's play so far this year.

Last Friday, Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon was frustrated with his team's lack of focus at practice. Dominique Kirk, who is typically one of the enforcers, was absent due to a death in the family and Bryan Davis wasn't able to practice much due to the foot injury that he suffered against Texas on Wednesday night.

The Aggies were able to fight their way to a 60-52 win against Oklahoma on Saturday, thanks in large part to a "talk" that Turgeon delivered to the team according to Joseph Jones.

But even though he missed practice with a strained foot, Davis is one player who didn't need much of a pep talk from Turgeon. He's been giving it his all since the season started, and since the start of Big 12 Conference play, he's been finding a little extra—even after suffering the foot injury.

"Bryan is a big time competitor," Turgeon said. "We've got four or five guys who are unbelievably competitive and we're trying to get six, seven, eight, nine guys to be like that. We've just got to make him a better low post scorer and he's got to quit turning the ball over, but all of our guys have to quit turning the ball over. He's getting so much more intelligent on defense. He had a dumb foul against (Oklahoma's Blake Griffin) 35 feet from the basket, but other than that, he's starting to play with so much intelligence."

That intelligence is one of the biggest reasons he has replaced freshman All-American DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup and has seen his minutes increase over the past few games.

Through 16 non-conference games this season, Davis averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in nearly 22 minutes per game. But through the first seven Big 12 Conference games of 2008, he's averaged nearly 25 minutes per game and he's making the most of the extra playing time. His point production is up nearly 33 percent (11.6 ppg) and his rebounds have increased by nearly 20 percent (5.6 rpg).

Davis has also improved his field goal and free throw percentage as well. He's shooting 61 percent from the field and 71 percent from the charity stripe in the last seven games, compared to 53 percent and 64 percent in non-conference play.

His biggest basket of the year may have come on Saturday against Oklahoma when he grabbed a lose ball under the basket as the shot clock ran down, dribbled back a step and scored a layup as the buzzer sounded.

"Bryan is really fast," Turgeon said. "The way he snatched the ball up and got it to the rim, you can't teach that. That was a big time play."

But it's not just his physical abilities that make those kinds of plays possible. While Turgeon says Dominique Kirk is extremely gifted mentally, he's impressed with Davis' ability between the ears as well.

"For his size and what he does, he's pretty intelligent and he knows he can learn the game a little bit better as time goes on and hopefully this year. He's got a high IQ.

Turgeon, who is also a big A&M football fan, said that he believes Davis could have been quite the football player as well.

"We do some loose ball drills, and he really gets on the ball," Turgeon said. "He would have been a heck of a football player the way he closes on things."

But when told that A&M's new football coach Mike Sherman could use a tight end with the departure of Martellus Bennett, Turgeon got pretty protective of his starting forward.

"He can't have him, he's got bad hands," Turgeon joked.

Davis, who is still wearing a protective boot around campus, will play for the Aggies in their Tuesday night match up against Iowa State, but Turgeon doesn't expect the strained foot to be 100 percent for another two weeks.

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