If you had watched him at all last season, you would’ve seen Austin Davis wearing a shoulder sleeve.
The bruising senior center began the season with one on his left shoulder, but switched it to his right after injuring it against Michigan State on Feb. 8. Over the following month, Davis played through the pain and played well, shooting 68% from the field and averaging 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds off the bench. Davis’s production even earned him a chance to return to the Wolverines for his fifth year of eligibility.
With COVID-19 prematurely ending the college basketball season, Davis turned his attention to repairing his right shoulder. In late April, he underwent surgery at the Michigan Medicine Brighton Center for Specialty Care.
Under the guidance of Michigan’s Associate Athletic Trainer Alex Wong, Davis spent the next few months rehabbing in both his hometown of Onsted and in Ann Arbor.
“It’s feeling good,” Davis said. “We’re starting to get back in the flow of things. … It’s been a long road so getting healthy and getting back into shape have just been a huge focus right now.”
In addition to a lengthy recovery process, the pandemic added an extra wrinkle as quarantine restrictions halted many of the Wolverines’ typical summer workouts. As a result, Davis wasn’t around his teammates and coaches during most of his rehab.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Davis said. “Not being able to see your guys everyday and not being able to get that full summer of workouts in for a lot of different reasons. It’s been a different experience than my first four years.”
When the team first announced Davis had undergone shoulder surgery, he was expected to fully recover by October — right in time for Michigan’s first game. Now, with the start of the season pushed back a few weeks, Davis will have even more time to work his way back into the fold and strengthen the shoulder.
Though he started doing basketball-related activities again about two months ago, Davis still hasn’t been cleared to participate fully in practice. Still, he remains optimistic that he’s on track.
“I’m just continuing to become comfortable and stay comfortable,” Davis said. “Rehabbing and getting back healthy is just the biggest thing.”
After a breakout season and the departure of starting center Jon Teske, Davis is in line to have an increased workload and with it, possibly increased expectations.
“It might look that way,” Davis said. “But I think I’m going to try and go in with the same mindset of being ready when I’m called upon and just give my team what they ask of me and need from me. That’s all you can really do.”
Davis may not feel any added pressure to produce this season, but as a fifth-year senior, he understands his responsibility as a leader off the court too.
Davis has seemingly been through it all — redshirting his freshman year, playing sparingly the next two seasons and then serving as a critical part of the rotation. With six new teammates — four of whom are freshmen — Davis wants to provide guidance whenever possible.
“I think my role is to show them the ropes a little bit,” Davis said. “Obviously I’ve been here a while. I’ve experienced a lot of different things. Just to be there and help them along and give them pointers if they need it. Having support was huge when I was coming through so I think that’s very important, especially during this time.”
Either way, entering his final season, Michigan will look to Davis’s newly-repaired shoulder to carry more weight.