CHICAGO — Wisconsin sophomore shooter Johnny Davis is a simple kid with a simple game.
Very good defender. Solid scorer. A fall to the ground. A deadly shot at half range. Nothing too flashy.
So when teams asked him a quirky question about his personal life during NBA Draft Combine interviews in Chicago, Davis didn’t waver.
“They asked me what my ‘wild’ moment would be,” Davis said. “It’s realizing I’m in the NBA. And playing against everyone who’s been there. I just made sure I went through the interviews with my head straight. ”
Davis, 20, held his pro day on Saturday, though he didn’t shoot or drill, as part of agent Jeff Schwartz’s Excel Management stable. The Knicks, who also interviewed him on Thursday, was present. Davis is in the Knicks’ lineup with the No. 11 draft pick, but he has talks with teams ahead of them, including the Spurs at No. 9.
Davis said it was an honor to meet coach Tom Thibodeau, who can’t walk the streets of Chicago without getting arrested as a former star coach for the Bulls.
“It went really well,” Davis said. “It was nice to see a familiar face [in Thibodeau] and someone who has been in the game for a while. It was amazing talking to him after seeing what he’s done with a lot of teams. He is a very recognized coach in the league.
“I heard from people that he likes guys like [me]” Davis added. “So hopefully I can fit in with them and they’ll be invested in me enough to draft me.”
Davis, whose father is former NBA player Mark Davis, also met Spurs. But he hasn’t seen coach Gregg Popovich, who is in Serbia scouting the EuroLeague Final Four.
The Spurs could be the biggest threat to Davis’ downfall to the Knicks, although some false drafts have Davis going to the Pelicans at No. 8 as the perfect replacement for CJ McCollum.
“Obviously playing under Coach Popovich, the most famous coach in NBA history, is something I would really like to happen,” Davis said.
While defense is a calling card, Davis believes he can also be an explosive NBA scorer and tries to emulate Devin Booker on the offensive side. For now, he’s a great mid-range goalscorer who needs to improve his range.
“Yeah, Devin Booker. I don’t know him personally,” Davis said. “His strength and his ability to score in different ways. I don’t know too much about him as a defender, but he’s competitive.
Nobody considered Davis a potential lottery pick as a rookie, despite having a small role in a senior-dominated team and averaging 7 points per game in 2020-21.
But last season, as a sophomore, he became “Mr. Badger” – the star guy and that caused his efficiency stats to drop due to the attention he got from defenses. Davis finished with an average of 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. But he shot 42.7% overall – 30.3 from 3-point range.
“It definitely doesn’t represent me,” Davis said. “I could have shot better from the free throw line – from 3 in particular. I thought later in the season I took a lot more contested shots. Later in the season teams gave me more requested because of the success I had earlier in the season.
There’s an intangible spirit in Davis, who helped Wisconsin win a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, that can’t be captured with analytics.
“For Johnny, it all starts with his competitiveness, his killer instinct and his will to win,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said recently. “It’s at the top of his motivating factors. But he’s also had a full offseason in the weight room, aside from a few weeks with Team USA. [Under-19 roster]. It helped him add strength and explosiveness.
Davis is a twin and his twin brother, Jordan, played with him in Wisconsin. His father, a former small forward, played professionally for 13 seasons after being drafted by the Cavaliers in the 1985 NBA Draft.
“[He told me] just make sure you have fun and don’t put too much pressure on me and think too high,” Davis said. “Just stay in the moment.”
When asked what he would be thinking on June 23, draft night in Brooklyn, when his name is called, Davis replied, “I’ll be thinking of my parents. They managed to put me in this position. They raised me to be the man I am today. Everything I do is for them.
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