Today is part two of the continuing profile series of our incoming basketball recruits, and it once again involves a player I have seen in person this year. Since last June, I have seen Rapheal Davis twice. First, I saw him in the Junior/Senior all-star exhibition at Kokomo last summer, but I was unable to draw many conclusions from that game. Rapheal was still recovering from a knee injury, and played sparingly with only four points. The second time was a showcase game when his LaPorte LaLumiere team came to Indianapolis to play Trader's Point Christian. There was a ton of Division I talent on the floor that night, and Davis was the best player, as I wrote that night:
He had nine points by halftime after only two in the first quarter, then a huge second half as LaLumiere outscored Trader's Point 38-18 in the final 16 minutes. Davis had 21 of those 38. Davis is a scorer, plain and simple. He attacks the rim, and that's exactly what we need.
What's exciting about Davis is that he does not rely on his jump shot. I only saw him take three jumpers: a three-pointer that he missed and a couple of 16-foot pull-ups. He hit one of the 16 footers. The rest of the time he got to the rim with impunity against a team that had a lot of height. Olah is a 7-footer, while Kostic is 6'8" Brzoja is a savvy 6'5" guard that was impressive inside as well as outside. Davis got through them all. He finished 10 of 17 from the floor and, more importantly 10 of 14 from the line. So, yay that he can hit his free throws once he drives!
Davis had Kelsey Barlow's build, but is a much more effective scorer once he gets to the rim. He also moves very well without the basketball, as one of his buckets came on a very sweet backdoor cut. Davis showed his versatility with five rebounds against a team with good size. Not only did TPCA have good size, but Davis had to get rebounds with several of his own teammates playing as bigs. Simpson and Perea are bigs, as is Obij Aget (headed to New Mexico) and intriguing sophomore Johnathan Wilkins (more on him later).
I didn't get to see much of Davis' defense, but he should fit in quite well in that department. I don't think he is as polished as Barlow defensively, but he's an effective defender that has quick hands and can disrupt passing lanes.
I was mostly excited by his offensive game. We could use it right now because he is not afraid to attack the rim. He also does not settle for threes. He took one all night long. I think he can hit the occasional three to keep defenses honest, but he'll get his points going to the basket.
I think the best way I can describe Davis' game is that he is Kelsey Barlow with his give-a-sh*t turned on at all times. I hope you understand what the "give-a-sh*t" is in terms of being a player. Barlow was the example of a player who didn't have his give-a-sh*t turned on, but when he did, he could dominate. When it wasn't on, we had GDB moments.
The give-a-sh*t is something that I look for in players, and I think it is almost a prerequisite to play basketball at Purdue. As fans, we do not appreciate players who take plays off. It doesn't take long for us to turn on said players, and that is why Barlow was such a polarizing figure.
Another thing that colored my view of Davis as a player was the timing of when I saw him play. The Trader's Point game was on January 26, right as Purdue was in the midst of its worst stretch of basketball during the 2011-12 season. We had a team that was not attacking the rim, couldn't hit free throws with regularity, and was struggling to have any offensive flow. Davis did all of these things for an excellent 30 point night against a team with multiple Division I players.
In terms of where Davis fits in next year, I think he could be an excellent option at the three to back up D.J. Byrd as a change-of-pace player. While Byrd is a player that does more outside shooting as opposed to driving to the basket, Davis can get to the rim and get to the line. His 6'5" 200 pound frame is made to get to the rim, like Barlow. He's also got the athleticism needed to finish once he gets there.
I can see an optimal starting lineup of Ronnie/Terone Johnson at the point, Anthony Johnson and John Hart at the two. D.J./Davis at the three as an inside/outside changeup, Travis Carroll/Jay Simpson/Jacob Lawson at the four (in the case of Lawson and Carroll, their more natural position), and Sandi Marcius teaming with A.J. Hammons at the five. That leaves Donnie Hale to pickup minutes at the three or the four and John Hart as the 3-point specialist he should be as a replacement to Ryne Smith.
When you think about it, that's not a bad lineup. There is depth at every position. Yes, the point guard spot lacks experience, but the TJ/RJ combo is a lot better than we were before LewJack arrived. I think Carroll and Lawson can flourish at the four because they are a better fit there, while Marcius and Hammons have the bodies to bang in the paint.
What I like about this the most is the versatility. Anthony can get to the rim, but I like his jumper a lot and think he can be a deadly shooter from long range. Hart has a penchant for the occasional big basket, so I'd love for him to find a role as a sniper that hits a big bucket every now and then. Simpson has time to grow into his position while Lawson and Carroll are better suited for the four (especially Carroll with his 15-footer). The Davis/Byrd dichotomy brings to the table what I have talked about before: the ability to change things in the flow of the game.
To me, a team is especially dangerous when each player on the floor at any given time is a threat to score, but brings something different than anyone else on the roster. If all those players can mesh their games together, suddenly the entire machine can triumph over better talent on the other side.
One thing I'd like to see Davis work on is more of an outside shot. He doesn't need to be a three-point shooter. Byrd/Hart/AJ/TJ can do that next year. If Davis can be at least a threat from long range it will open up his get to the basket game. Also, if he is going to play at Purdue, he needs to play defense. I have no doubt he can do that, however.
Davis may not be a starter at any time next season, but I think he will be a key reserve and a player that can come in and change games offensively with his ability to drive. He can also be a solid free throw shooter to buoy us at the line. I'd like to see him crash the glass, something I begged Barlow to do for three seasons, because he has the potential to be a good rebounder with his size and athleticism.