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Terence Davis II hunts rebounds like a homeless dog goes after table scraps in a back alley.
Trust me, that’s a compliment.
It doesn’t matter the size of the opponent with designs on those same scraps or rebound. He’s coming away with it.
It’s a football mentality brought to the basketball court, and while Davis isn’t the first NBA player to own such a mentality or even the only member of the Raptors to possess such a mindset, it does help explain his rapid ascent from fringe bench guy to rotation player.
It’s part physicality, part confidence, part full-out fearlessness, and it’s been working to Davis’ advantage since he left he football field behind and put all his eggs, so to speak, in his basketball basket.
Davis was a highly sought wide receiver, not to mention special teams demon, coming out of high school.
More than 20 big-time college football programs came calling with scholarships. Davis took a pass on all of them. Instead, he sifted through the five basketball offers he had and settled on Ole Miss. It wasn’t a popular decision among his friends and fellow football fanatics, but then Davis didn’t look upon his decision as a group decision.
As good as he was, probably still is, at football, basketball was his first love and he was determined to make a career of it.
Fred VanVleet, who played some football himself growing up in hard-scrabble Rockford, Ill., says he can always pick out the football player on the court.
“It’s just a physicality,” VanVleet said. “It’s nothing crazy, but the fear of somebody hitting your chest or getting hit in the ribs, the fear of that is a lot worse than the actual hit you take and you don’t really learn that unless you play football, or you’re just a rough basketball player,” VanVleet said. “So you can see the guys that go up there for rebounds with two hands, that are not afraid to dive for the ball or not afraid to throw his body around. He’s been hit before, like hard, for real, playing football. On the basketball court, it’s not that bad. You can always tell the guys that have been through that.”
Davis has receivers hands that measure 10.75 inches from the tip of his pinky to the tip of his thumb, but those come in handy on a basketball court.
Kawhi Leonard can explain it to you if you aren’t sure about the concept.
“I caught whatever (was thrown my way),” Davis says, spreading his hands out for full effect as he talks about his football days.
Davis still watches football. Keeps up with his Ole Miss alum in the NFL now — guys like DK Metcalf in Seattle and Evan Engram in New York with the Giants. He crossed paths with Raiders safety Jonathan Abram, who he played against growing up, when the Raptors were in Dallas last weekend. Abram is one of the guys who couldn’t understand why Davis would go the basketball route when the football route seemed like such a sure thing for him.
“The guys I grew up playing football against were all, ‘Man, why didn’t you play football? You are unstoppable.’ That sort of thing,” Davis said. “Good football guys, guys in the (NFL) right now and some of them still ask me why I didn’t choose football.”
But basketball was always Davis’ No. 1 and with the support of his mother and father he stayed true to his No. 1 sports love and he’s doing just fine.
The naysayers have just given him more motivation to follow his first choice.
“I would just say that the doubters and people like that, it really motivates guys like me, like Fred (VanVleet) — they motivate guys like me to prove them wrong, honestly,” Davis said. “When I committed to college, when I was in high school, I chose basketball. I wanted to prove everyone who thought that I chose the wrong sport wrong. So far I’ve been doing that. My whole career playing basketball, I’m still out to continue to do it.”
Now the run Davis is on right now is a bit circumstantial. He’s getting his minutes because of injury, and those injuries are healing. Serge Ibaka will make the trip to Atlanta this weekend, although it’s unlikely he’ll play. Kyle Lowry isn’t ready to return quite yet, but the team has pencilled in Dec. 1 as a likely return date.
Even Patrick McCaw, who had surgery on his knee, is already pain-free and moving freely and that’s just two weeks post-surgery.
Davis’ minutes, which have ranged from 16 minutes all the way up to 31 the past seven games, will eventually take a hit.
But the experience and he confidence he’s gaining right now should serve him well once that time comes. And when the Raptors need him again, they’ll know they have an athletic, fearless, hard-working rookie ready to lap those minutes up again when the time comes.
Toronto Raptors (10-4) at Atlanta Hawks (4-10), tonight, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena; TV: TSN; RADIO: FAN590
SCOUTING REPORT : The Hawks were in Detroit Friday night so the Raptors catch a scheduling break as they will be waiting for the Hawks in Atlamta when they return …After winning the first two games of the year, Atlanta has won just two of the past 10 and went into Detroit having lost a season-worst four in a row … John Collins suspension for a PED infraction has hurt the Hawks immensely. If Young is the best player on this team, Collins is the engine that makes them go … Hawks are fourth in the NBA in steals and eighth in forced turnovers. Raps are going to have to be very carful iwht the ball.
MARQUEE MATCHUP PG Fred VanVleet vs. PG Trae Young. Young is on a role having scored 20 or more in the past seven games and leads the NBA’s Eastern Conference in assists with 8.6 a night. His 28.6 ppg are seventh in the NBA overall. VanVleet has been a stud in Lowry’s absence. He’s averaging 17.6 points per game and 7.6 assists per night. With Young the dominant scorer in Atlanta by a significant margin look for Nurse and company to force the ball out of his hands and take their chances with a secondary scorer beating them.
DID YOU KNOW : The Raptors have won the past seven games against Atlanta including four on the Hawks’ home court … Former Raptor Vince Carter is back for a second season with the Hawks. Carter is averaging 6 minutes a night.
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