In last week’s edition of our summer previews, we looked at Caleb Love and his potential for a breakout sophomore campaign. Although his numbers weren’t always pretty, the scoring and playmaking ability were evident. With a more normal offseason and presumably a chance to actually play in front of full arenas, it’s not outlandish to expect a leap. Well, there’s another sophomore guard with impeccable scoring ability that could very well make a similar jump: RJ Davis.
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Listed at 6’0, 160 pounds (6’0 is pretty generous), Davis is undersized for the college game. Still, that rarely stopped him from driving right into the teeth of the defense and trying to finish over the trees. Davis’s aggression paid off more often than you might expect from a player of his age and stature. If you don’t believe me, just check out this highlight video featuring some of his crafty moves to get to the bucket.
Last season, Davis averaged 8.4 points, 1.9 assists, and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 35% from the field, 32.3% from three, and 82.1% from the free throw line. While 32.3% may not seem especially impressive, it was good enough to rank third (minimum 10 attempts) on a team that struggled mightily shooting the ball. Davis actually started the year off pretty hot, making 8 of his 18 deep attempts through the first five games. However, as the competition ramped up, he had a more difficult time getting his shot off cleanly.
Similar to Love, Davis had to deal with the challenges of being a freshman point guard in the Carolina offense. While Love was the primary handler of those duties, Davis spent his fair share of time running the offense, especially when Love was on the bench. His 1.9 turnovers per game ranked third-worst on the team. While he wasn’t quite as careless with the ball as Love (3.1), there were certainly times where you were reminded of his youth.
With that being said, the game really seemed to slow down for Davis in the later stages of the season. Without the same sort of preparation that players are typically afforded, it may have taken a little longer for the freshman guards to get adjusted than we’ve seen from guys like Ty Lawson or Marcus Paige. In his last four games, Davis recorded just four total turnovers while averaging 11.3 points. He got much better at picking his spots and knowing when to be aggressive. As a result, he appeared more comfortable within the offense and found multiple ways to impact the game.
Speaking of Ty Lawson, Davis is cut from the same cloth, at least in regards to size. Davis doesn’t have Lawson’s blazing speed but his quickness is comparable and both dudes have a fearlessness about them that just makes you want to pull for them. I believe this coming season, we’ll get to see an even more confident Davis with better decision-making and likely higher efficiency. Aside from Kerwin Walton, Davis was Carolina’s most consistent shooter and scorer on the perimeter. With a season under his belt and a chance to experience college basketball as it was meant to be played, Davis will join Love and Walton to form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the country.