So often in college basketball, getting top players to stay close to home can become a challenge. Keeping top in-state talent, many of whom already have a chemistry from having played together or knowing each other through the years, has led to many great NCAA tournament runs. With Head Coach Eric Musselman’s first year at University of Arkansas in the books, it appears evident that he employed this philosophy for this year’s recruiting class.
Arkansas landed Moses Moody and KK Robinson, both of whom started playing high school basketball in Arkansas before moving to Montverde Academy in Florida and Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, respectively. Gatorade Player of the Year for Arkansas, big man Jaylin Williams, is yet another of the four players coming into Arkansas who are among the 247 Composite Top-100 players in the 2020 high school class. Davonte Davis was the first of this talented group to commit. A strong part of Woodz Elite’s (AR) success on the Nike EYBL circuit, Davis is set to be a part of this home state revival.
Originally committed to Oklahoma State, Davis’ strong play in the EYBL’s Peach Jam caught his home state school’s attention. With a number of other high major options also showing interest, like Auburn, Mississippi, Oregon, and Texas Tech, he ultimately made the decision to commit to the Razorbacks. Davis is a lefty guard with a 6’7 wingspan, which is a big part of his success as a finisher. He brings positional versatility with the potential to play both on or off the ball, has good lateral mobility and has shown potential as a shooter. His upward trajectory was evident at Peach Jam, where he doubled his regular season scoring average as Woodz Elite finished 3-2 against some of the top teams in the field.
Pro Insight sat down with Davis and talked about the dynamic around his recruitment, what led him to choose basketball as a former multi-sport athlete, his family’s past history with sports in general, and his routine given the current circumstances of COVID-19.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Arkansas commit Davonte Davis, from Jacksonville, Arkansas:
Pro Insight: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your family like? Any siblings or relatives also play sports?
Davonte Davis: I’m from Jacksonville, Arkansas. I have zero siblings, actually, and I got a few uncles that actually played college basketball and one that played college football at Arkansas. My grandma played college, as well. I come from a family that’s always played basketball.
PI: Did you also play any other sports?
DD: Yes, before my ninth grade year, before I transferred to Jacksonville Lighthouse [Charter school], at Jacksonville Middle School, I played baseball, basketball, and football...so I played three sports. Then my ninth grade year I got into track — once I transferred to Jacksonville Lighthouse, they actually didn’t have football or baseball at the time, so I just played basketball and track. Those two [sports] I just took in stride and became better and I grew.
PI: Which events in track and field? And which positions did you play in football and baseball?
DD: For baseball, I played shortstop and pitcher. In football, I played quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. For track, I did all the hurdles — so the 300 & 100 meter hurdles and the high jump, as well.
PI: Did you stop running track, or did you continue it throughout high school?
DD: I was still maintaining track, but my 11th grade year I tore my meniscus so I wasn’t able to run...so therefore I couldn’t run [track], last year. If I was still in school right now, I’d be running this year as well.
PI: Any interest in being a dual sport athlete [basketball & track] at Arkansas, or is basketball your sole focus?
DD: Yeah, my focus is on basketball once I get up to Fayetteville. I was really doing it [track] just to stay ready and it provides a lot of conditioning and stuff like that.
PI: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement? What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
DD: Yeah, a strength is getting everyone involved in the game of course...that’s my first thing, I like to get my teammates involved. I also can shoot the midrange very well, and I’m a good free throw shooter, too. I can attack and create for myself. Some things I think I should work on...to shoot consistently, being a leader on the floor is something I really got to do better at, and also being active on the defensive end. In terms of underrated, just being able to control the pace of the game, I think I do that very well and lead my team in difficult situations.
PI: With most things shut down right now due to COVID-19, what are some things you’re doing to stay ready and prepare for Arkansas next season?
DD: Well with all this stuff going on I’ve been doing a lot of strength and conditioning things. Also I get in the gym at least three times per week and get a lot of shots up with just me and another person. I think that’s helped me out a lot, being in there by myself going after the little things.
PI: What aspects of your game are you currently working on in prep for next season?
DD: Really just going in and getting a lot of shots up and making shots consistently. Also, just being able to keep everything tight like my handle and all that...just working on every aspect of my game so when I go to Fayetteville I’ll be ready.
PI: Who have been some tough individual matchups for you throughout your high school and AAU career?
DD: Really I just compete at practices with my teammates, which has helped me out a lot. I mean going against competition is always going to be tough, but me, I don’t really play against a lot of competition that I don’t think that I’m not better than. I mean, I feel like I’m one of the top guards in the country so I think really they’re competing against me and my team.
PI: Your team failed to make the state playoffs in 2019, but made it all the way to the state championship in 2020 before it was eventually canceled — do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to this season? Do you feel like you guys had a good shot to beat West Memphis in the title game?
DD: Well last year, we didn’t make state [playoffs], and we fell short as a team. I got hurt. I tore my meniscus, so that really hurt us. But coming into this year, we were coming in ready to win games and going game by game, hoping to make it to the championship and that’s what happened. I think I did and we did accomplish a lot of goals that we were looking forward to accomplishing. So I think everything we looked forward to, we got it done. Yes for sure [re: facing West Memphis], we were coming in, we had a game plan and we were going to stick to that game plan and at the end of the game hopefully we were holding that state championship banner up.
PI: What are some of your short and long term goals?
DD: Short term, just developing my game every single day and also my education. Going into school I was going to study Zoology and Strategy Management...one of those two, so those things I’ve really been looking into a lot. Long term, of course I’m looking to try and make it to the NBA, but also creating my own company, different things like that...a training company or something like that, because I’m into training as well.
PI: Why do you wear number #3? Is there a story behind that?
DD: Uh not really, usually I wear #8 and that was since I was playing in the boys and girls club around six or seven years ago. I’ve been wearing #3 for a couple years, but there ain’t no story behind it, I just wear it and I think it fits me.
PI: When do you feel like things really started picking up for you as a player, in terms of getting scholarship offers?
DD: Well I played three different sports and I was very good at all three of them. A lot of different people were telling me different things about each sport and I feel like I was good in all of them. Once I moved to the charter school I felt pretty good about basketball. I felt like that was something I was really going to be good at and I started studying the game more and working harder and harder than most people around me. That’s when I feel like my game extended. The school I moved to didn’t have baseball or football so I started focusing on basketball...around ninth grade is when the offers started rolling in.
PI: When you realized that you could go play college basketball in the future how did that change your approach or work ethic?
DD: Well me as a person, I’ve always been a hard worker. So I just started looking at the little things once I started figuring out that I could play college basketball. I started looking at those small things that others didn’t look at, so once I did, that’s when I felt like my game really rose from the middle to the highest level of basketball and that’s when I started playing high major-type basketball on the EYBL circuit.
PI: What were you looking for in a school and what made Arkansas the right fit?
DD: Well as you know, I was committed to Oklahoma State for a little while and that’s a great organization and I feel like I could have made an impact there. But it was earlier in 2019...I was hurt coming into this past summer  and a lot of words were hitting me and I was having a lot of different thoughts. So I had a good Peach Jam, and Arkansas was always my dream school of course and a lot of coaches were there. I found out that Coach Muss was coaching at Arkansas. I heard that he had a lot of NBA experience and stuff like that, the coaching staff he was bringing in, some of them have played in the NBA and some of them coached some of the best players in the NBA right now...so I figured that if I de-committed from Oklahoma State and joined this Arkansas team that my game would reach its highest level, which is playing in the NBA. I feel like once I committed there, Coach Muss was going to help me and his coaching staff will help get me to where I want to be.
PI: How excited are you to be able to play in your home state?
DD: Arkansas has always been a dream school, so just playing in front of the people that have always been watching me is very amazing.
PI: What system best fits your playing style and how do you feel like you’ll fit in at Arkansas?
DD: At Arkansas, it’s a spread, open offense...pushing the ball up and down the floor, which is something that I really love and that’s where I’m best at is looking for open people on the fast break and also looking for myself on the fast break. So I think that fits the best aspect of my game which is executing the fast break.
PI: How excited are you to play with Moses Moody, KK Robinson, and Jaylin Williams? Did any of them help recruit you over or did you help recruit any of them?
DD: Well once I committed I was like “ok, it’s me now, let me try to get some other guys.” I knew they all had offers from Arkansas and I knew if I could get some of those guys then Arkansas would be amazing next year, which is what everybody wants. So once I got those guys I feel like I was doing a pretty good job, they committed and everybody was telling me, “you’re a good recruiter” and I was like “yep I’m doing my job I guess,” but I feel like next year is going to be crazy. Bud Walton Arena is going to be turned up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
PI: Name 4 words that best describe you.
DD: Intelligent. Hard-working. Funny. Leader.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball? What are you looking for and what are your biggest takeaways when you watch?
DD: I probably watch more college basketball since that’s my next step. I look for a lot of small details, even coming from the bench or things like that. Every different coach plays a different style, so not just going off a lot of different schools, but I watch a lot of small things that every player that plays for their coach and school should have.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
DD: My favorite player is Paul George, but I don’t really model my game after somebody because I feel like I do things no one else does. So I feel like once I get to that level, people should start looking at me and should model their game after me because I do things others don’t do.
PI: Are there any point guards in the pros or in college that you feel have a similar style of play to yours?
DD: I really look at that and a lot of people say probably like De’Aaron Fox, people say Brandon Jennings as well. Also I look at Damian Lillard and different people like Chris Paul and stuff like that. They all have different things in their games that others don’t have. Also John Wall, he’s really good, I used to love him.
PI: Do you feel you can play off the ball as well?
DD: Yes, so during last summer I actually played off the ball a lot. It was me and another point guard and they felt like I could score more so I played the shooting guard a lot and I did very well at that position, so I’d put myself at the combo guard position. Also, I can guard the 1-3 and as I get taller and stronger, I feel I’ll be able to continue guarding all of those positions, as well.
PI: How do you view yourself as a defender?
DD: I defend very well. I love talking on the defensive end, that’s what I do. I love to get everyone involved and make sure we’re playing team defense, make sure you’re on the help side or the back side and stuff like that. I play really hard and tough defense. I love guarding on the ball and getting into people’s pocket and things like that. I averaged about four steals per game this year so I love getting into the passing lanes and things like that.
PI: What is something most people don’t know about you?
DD: Me as a person off the court, I love to go fishing. I love going fishing, that’s where I get my peace. Me and my uncles along with some cousins fish pretty much every other day, school or not. I leave a workout or practice and I go fishing, that’s what I love doing. Also I work out like three or four times a day, a lot of people don’t know that. I love to do little things other people don’t do, hang with family, things like that.
PI: You mentioned you workout multiple times per day, so what’s your daily schedule like?
DD: When high school was going on I worked out at 6AM. I worked out at the community center, so once I was done there I’d go straight to the school and get some shots up for about an hour or two until my first class starts. Then I’d go to practice [after school]. Before practice we’d actually do lots of different drills and workouts, stuff like that. After that [practice] I’d go lift weights and then later in the evening I’d go shooting again.
PI: You touched on some potential majors and career paths — if you weren’t playing basketball what else would you do for a living?
DD: I would definitely get into Zoology or Strategy Management. I think Strategy Management fits well with me, I’m a good people person. I like to talk and just work things out with people and I feel like I connect with a lot of different types of people. Also me being an animal person, I always liked interacting with animals and things like that and I love watching animal planet, things of that nature. Since I was small I’ve always been into animals, I know a lot of different things about animals, so if someone is talking about animals and I answer a question people are like “dang how’d you know that?” and I’m like “yeah I look into those types of things.” One time I told my grandma because we’re really close, she’s like my best friend, I said, “what if I get my own zoo?” and she thought about it and then she laughed and I said, “watch one day it’s going to happen” then she figured out that I was really interested. She kept hearing me saying it and saying it and once I had my thoughts on that sealed she was all down with it.
PI: What are the four websites you spend the most time on?
DD: I get on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube a lot — those four are the main four I’ll be on. Not really [on visiting websites], I just like to interact with my friends, we send each other different videos off of YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Also just into checking Twitter...there’s a lot of information on there.
PI: Which Netflix shows you burning through these days?
DD: I just finished the second-to-last episode of All-American, I still need to watch the last episode. Earlier this month I watched ‘You’ on Netflix, but I usually just find different kinds of movies. My grandma gives me different options, she watches every movie on Netflix so she tells me which ones are good or bad.
PI: If you could play any other sport professionally what would you play?
DD: Football for sure, or baseball...one of those two. When I was small, I actually thought I was going to be able to play baseball, but my grandma, my mom and grandpa they all told me, we had won the baseball championship, and they all told me “this is boring watching you, this is boring” (laughs) so I was like “dang it’s really boring?” So I took that thought in and next year I played travel baseball, but I said, “if I continue to play baseball, they’re not enjoying watching it so I should change my thought about this.” So then I went to football, I was very good at football, actually my grandma loved football except when it rained outside and we were playing in it, because you know you continue to play as long as it’s not thunder or lightning, so we played out there in the rain and snow and she didn’t like that. I go off her because we’re really close and we always talk about different things so basketball was the next choice so I just went on with basketball and I’m here now.
PI: Please explain what Davonte Davis brings to a team, regardless of the situation – name some things on the court and some things off the court.
DD: Off the court, for sure leadership. A lot of small things with the leadership part such as, not going to the bathroom when the coach asks you not to go to the bathroom or something like that...or not having the phone out when you’re eating. I like to talk to my teammates to let them know about the things they’re doing that’s not appropriate, then I’ll let them know, I don’t have a problem telling them things they should know and they don’t want to hear. That’s something I’m really big on. Also I bring something a lot of people don’t see on the court and that’s toughness, a lot of people don’t dive on the floor for balls and things like that, I think I’m that guy. Once I start doing it then others around see me doing that then I bring that to the table and everyone comes together as a whole.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life?
DD: It was this year actually...the beginning of the school year I was actually playing football, I was coming off my meniscus injury. I played three or four games, and my last game we played at home and that was our first home game so everyone was looking at me wondering why I was on the field, since I was getting ready for basketball. So once the game started I got the first tackle and I actually scored the same game as well. I had a touchdown, like 100 receiving yards, and 12 tackles from the safety position so this past football season was crazy. A lot of people wanted me to play football, and I won’t ever forget because everybody was in my ear asking me “why are you playing, why are you doing this?” so that’s something I really won’t forget.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
DD: I receive lots of different information and advice from a lot of different people, but a lot of different things come from my grandma that always stick to me and I take it all in because she tells me “one day I’m not going to be here.” She’s always telling me to keep my head level and make sure I stay focused.
PI: What, or who, would you say is your biggest motivation in life?
DD: My family, my entire family, we all bond really well. Which includes my uncles, the ones who played football and basketball, my grandpa, grandma, and my mom. All of them, including my aunties and uncles on my dad’s side have really helped me a lot. They all tell me different things that I need to hear, not always what I want to hear, but they still tell me and that’ll help me out in the future.
PI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
DD: I see myself playing basketball, some kind of basketball no matter if it’s overseas or in the NBA I feel like I’ll be able to play basketball for a long time. I’m working on it now, keeping my body healthy and things like that so in about 10 years hopefully I’m still playing basketball, but also getting ready to start a company, some type of company where I can help people out.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
DD: Just being a great person off the floor. I’m a wonderful person off the floor: I’m helpful, I love to help people out, no matter what kind of help it is...either it’s passing out sack lunches to the little kids or giving someone a pair of shoes to someone who is in need...things like that. I want to be known as a basketball player as well, but also as a person off the court who loves to help people out.
Watch the full interview with Davonte, here