This season, BJ Davis ’16 has rocketed his game to new heights. Last weekend the star of the men’s basketball team beat Williams on a game-winning shot, the second time he has won the game with essentially no time on the clock this season. Aside from his late game heroics against the Ephs, the New Haven, CT native’s achievements include a fifth-place spot on the NESCAC scoring leaderboard and NESCAC player of the week honors for the last week of January. Perhaps most impressively, Davis broke the 1000-points milestone a few weeks ago against Conn College, cementing himself in the Wesleyan history books. With only two games remaining in their regular season dockett, the Cardinals are ranked 20th nationally, good for 2nd in their conference behind only 19th ranked Amherst. In order to repeat as champions in the upcoming NESCAC tournament, Wesleyan will need Davis to continue his elite play while also getting contributions from its supporting cast. The Argus recently caught up with Davis to ask him about the rise of Wesleyan basketball, life after college, and more.
The Argus: When you were originally deciding where you wanted to play in college, what drew you to Wesleyan?
BJ Davis: I had a few Division II offers, but my mom talked to me about NESCAC schools, so I spoke to Wesleyan and Hamilton, and Bowdoin was in the mix for a bit. My final three ended up being Franklin Pierce, here, and Saint Lawrence. I actually took two visits to Saint Lawrence, really liked the school, liked the coach, and I was fine with going away from home. Wesleyan was too close for me at the time, but I liked Wesleyan. I had a friend that went here, so I liked coming up and hanging out here even before I met Coach Reilly, and I liked the team. My mom didn’t want Franklin Pierce academic-wise, and Coach Reilly really sold me that I’d be a big part of the program here and that it was a rising program. So I think that’s what sold it for me, on top of my mom being really excited that she’d come get to watch all of my games rather than me going off to Canada.
A: What do you think the biggest reason has been for the program’s growth since you got here?
BD: We’ve had some really great recruiting classes here, with Kevin O’Brien [’19] starting as a freshman. We’ve got great talent between Salim [Green ’19], Jordan [Bonner ’19], Kelly [Hogan ’19], Andrew [Gardiner ’19]. They’re all going to be great players once they get their shot. I think winning helps; winning last year definitely got our name out there and put us in the mix of Amherst, Williams, and Trinity as a team to be reckoned with. We want to build the program, rather than just building a team and being good for two years and then being forgotten about.
A: What do you think was the biggest change between this year and last year that helped you personally make the jump?
BD: Being a senior, you get that urgency since it’s my last year playing basketball possibly, so you really want to work hard every day. This summer I had the chance to work at a sports agency where [NBA point guard] Jameer Nelson was a client, so I got to work out with him every day. Getting shots up every day with him and doing the drills he’s doing really helped me with the on-court aspect of things. Earlier in the season, Jack [Mackey ’16] and [Joe] Edmonds [’16] were hurt and I had to step into a bigger role for us to keep our out-of-conference thing rolling. Last year we only lost one out-of-conference game, so I really had to step up. Obviously I had Harry [Rafferty ’17], Joseph [Kuo ’17], and Rashid [Epps ’16] helping me, but I definitely had to move into a bigger scoring role with Jack and Edmonds sidelined for a bit.
A: So, you’re fifth in scoring in the NESCAC right now, and you’re shooting at a higher percentage than all of the guys above you on that list. How do you think the offense has adjusted to you being the go-to-guy, whereas last year you were balanced and without one big scorer?
BD: What’s kind of weird about our offense is that I’m not as ball-dominant as other guys in front of me in scoring. It really helps me that I have Jack, Harry, Edmonds, you have to focus on Joseph and ’Shid, in comparison to those guys that don’t have as many weapons. It opens things up for me that teams can’t clue in on me the way we’re going to this weekend against Lucas Hausman [of Bowdoin]. My team is really helping me do what I’m doing, and my percentages are high because I don’t have to take bad shots. I think I’m taking probably 11 to 12 shots a game compared to the guys above me who are taking more shots than they probably want to, if you ask them. Last game, Jack scored the last 12 of the first half and I scored the last 15 of the second half, so it’s really pick your poison, especially when you’ve got Raff coming in and hitting big shots. That’s what really helps our offense, and it’ll help us moving on as well.
A: Walk us through those last few minutes of the Williams game where you just took over the offense for a little while.
BD: Jack and I always talk about how the seniors kind of fumbled it when we were freshmen and we didn’t want that to be us. So Coach said we’re going to put the ball in our go-to guy’s hands and you guys have to make it happen. We made some big plays. Jack didn’t score much in the second half, but his leadership willed us to get that win. I trust him, he trusts me, so he looked at me in the second half and said ‘this is your half,’ which shows how much of a leader he is considering what he did in the first half. Our chemistry together, along with the other guys, is really what helped us. We’ve also practiced that situation many times in practice. Coach will throw two minutes on the clock and we’ll be down six and have to come back and figure it out. It’s a regular thing for us, so that repetition really helped us stay composed. It’s also just now clicking for us that this is our last time on the court together, as players and as friends, so we really want to make the most of it.
A: How strong do you think the program is going to come back next year with you, Jack, Rashid, and Joe all leaving?
BD: They’re going to have to find a different identity. When the game gets close it’s mostly been going to me and Jack, Edmonds coming off screens, ’Shid getting big rebounds. That’s really what won the Williams game, my shot was only possible because of Rashid. His insane rebound ended the game. But I think they have to fill holes, the majority of our scoring right now is coming from the seniors along with Joseph. Harry’s going to have to step up big. Salim, Jordan, Kevin, Kelly, and Andrew are all going to get shots to step in and contribute. PJ Reed [’17] is going to step up big. So with those core three seniors, PJ, Harry, and Joseph, all really molding together, and 4-5 guys stepping up big who haven’t really got a shot yet, it’ll be easy for them to find pieces and figure it out early.
A: What are you planning on doing after you graduate?
BD: I’ve looked at possibly going overseas to play. I’ve been speaking to a few sports agencies and marketing firms, I think I’m probably going to try and head down that path. I haven’t really had any concrete offers or anything yet, but I’ll probably head into something like that. As I said I worked at a basketball agency last summer, and the summer before that I worked at one mainly dealing with football and UFC. So something in that realm is probably the path I’m going to end up choosing. I’m pretty cool with Lucas at Bowdoin, Mike Boornazian at Bates, and then obviously Jack, and we’ve all dabbled with the idea of trying to get out there and play basketball for a few years before we have to head into the real world. Obviously my mom is a little skeptical, but I think it would be a good experience.