It’s been just over three weeks since Austin Davis first started showing poise as a reliable backup big man. And now poise, as it turns out, may have been a bit of an understatement.
This may be the Austin Davis breakout season, or at least as close to it as could have been reasonably expected.
It’s not as if he’s going to replace his fellow senior center, Jon Teske, in the starting lineup (at least barring any injuries). But Davis is continuing to get significant playing time, and has surpassed sophomore forward Colin Castleton in the rotation.
As he’s continued to get those significant minutes, he’s continued to do significant things with them.
A surprising twist this season, to be sure. Davis has given Michigan a reliable presence in the low post and a few buckets when it needed them most.
But when you get down to it, it’s not hard to see from where this sudden production has emerged.
“He’s a tough-nosed competitor,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said Tuesday night. “He does a really good job of using his body. He’s not afraid of contact. He loves the contact. He welcomes the contact. And not just tonight, but a lot of the other games we played throughout the year. He’s always accepted the challenge.”
In a 61-58 loss to Ohio State, Davis finished with 11 points, on 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. He pulled down three rebounds, two on offense and one on defense. Not bad for 14 minutes.
In fact, it’s not that hard to compare Davis’ stat line from last night — a career high for him — to some put up by Teske, the starter at the position.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive, play within our offense, play within myself,” Davis said. “I’ll take open looks when they’re there, and just put our team in the best position to win.
“I think it’s just confidence. Confidence in my teammates, confidence in myself. That’s the biggest thing.”
Perhaps this takeoff from Davis — who, it’s worth mentioning, was recruited and oft-praised by former Michigan coach John Beilein — is a reflection on, or maybe a result of, Howard’s new tenure at the helm of the program. Howard has worked intensively with all four bigs on the roster throughout the course of the season, watching film and teaching them post play.
The fruits of that labor are probably clearest when looking at Teske. But they’re becoming more and more evident in Davis, too. For both Davis and Howard, the hard work is paying off.
“It started back in the summer, when we had some player development time,” Howard said. “I work with all our bigs. Austin, just like all the bigs, has been working extremely hard leading up to this point in practice, spending time learning post play.
“Austin has always had it.”