Wendell Davis: Defying the odds

Noah Cloonan

The floor glistens in the spotlights.

A few fans sit in the stands as the men’s basketball team hosts West Liberty in their first home scrimmage of the season on Nov. 2.

The starters walk out to the center of the floor in their black practice jerseys and in the middle of the pack for the Eagles is Wendell Davis.

Ashland wins the tip and Davis immediately controls the pace for the Eagles. He rolls off of a screen at the top of the key and dribbles into the short corner, steps back and knocks down a short jumper to give AU the lead.

Next possession down the floor for Ashland the shot clock is winding down and Davis catches the pass on the left wing and rises up for three: Bang.

Wendell Davis was back.

Davis was making his first start on his home court after missing all of last season due to a torn ACL, but in 2017-18 Ashland is thrilled to have their All-Conference leader back.

“Wendell is the vocal and inspirational leader of the team,” head coach John Ellenwood said. “His passion is what drives his teammates.

In his first full scrimmage back, Davis scored 26 points to lead the Eagles to a 91-82 win. Davis shot 6-10 from the field and 2-3 from behind the arc and added in eight free throws.

Davis enters the season as the program’s 13th all time leading scorer with 1,331 points and the redshirt senior is ready to make more noise in division II this year.

“Last year I learned a lot from sitting on the bench and sitting with the coaches,” Davis said. “I learned a lot from what they see things versus how a player sees things. I think this year that helps me a lot because I help guys out just by being more clear on what the coaches want from us.”

Davis led the way in 2016 as a junior for the Eagles averaging 17.4 points per game and pulling down over 7 rebounds per game.

His contributions led the Eagles to a 25-win season and led AU to a NCAA tournament appearance for the first time in 25 years and had landed Ashland as one of the favorites to win the conference in 2017.

Then during the summer of 2016, Davis had one of those moments that define a team’s season when he was playing for his summer team.

He came down after a rebound and heard a pop in his knee, but even Davis would not let that stop him.

“It actually happened twice,” Davis said. “I went out of the game then I thought it was nothing big so I went back out, I played, I scored a couple of points got some rebounds and then I jumped again for a rebound and it snapped.”

Davis was forced to miss a substantial amount of time, but he did not let that keep him from getting better.

“I got to sit out and watch and that was my first time not being able to play basketball so I got to learn a lot mentally and just grow as a basketball player, not playing the game,” Davis said.

Davis learned more than just how to play the game of basketball while he was injured, he also learned to appreciate the little things.

“You forget sometimes in the grand scheme of things that you’re able to play the game, we get so focused and wound up on, oh, I want to do so good, or we got so many goals, but sometimes you just gotta be able to appreciate going out and competing,” he said.

Ellenwood said that the road for Davis was not easy, but that he has put in the work to get back to game form.

“He worked extremely hard on his conditioning and controlling his weight,” Ellenwood said. “He got stronger and strengthened his core. He also worked on observing from a coaching perspective while on the sideline last season. This helped him become a better communicator with the coaches and his teammates.”

When Ashland tips off the regular season, Davis will be in the lineup, but he will be without many of the players he spent his first three years with.

Michael Hundley, Boo Osborne and Adrian Cook have all been lost since Davis last stepped onto the court at Kates Gymnasium. The only starter other than Davis that is remaining from that historic 2016 season is Marsalis Hamilton.

Davis acknowledged the new look Eagles, but is happy with what he has seen from the team so far.

“I became family with everybody on the team. Everybody is looked at as a brother and we don’t just say that, it’s on and off the court. Us growing off the court has made us so much better on the court,” Davis said. “We’ve been getting after it. We still have some young guys on the team that have to embrace a big role, Aaron Thompson, Jay Slone and Joey Zahn, but we are hungry and a lot of guys are working really hard.”

Davis has garnered many preseason awards already for the Eagles as he has been named a preseason All-American as well as being named to the preseason All-GLIAC team.

“Seeing the preseason stuff was like a pat on the back,” Davis said. “It was like a lot of hard work for me personally this summer to get back to where I am especially coming off the ACL injury so it felt good, but then I also know that it’s a preseason, so that means nothing, it’s just saying what you could possibly do.”

All of the hard work that Davis put in during his year off the floor will have an opportunity to be showcased in his final season.

“I have certain things that I want to do, but overall I want to have fun,” Davis said. “I want to embrace the moment and live in the moment of every game.”