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Indiana-bound Davis working on guard skills

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For more on college recruiting, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

He is part of IU contingent at Derby Classic

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 6:51 am

Devin Davis as college guard.

Can you envision that?

Can you?

The 6-6, 185-pound Davis does. He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses. He benefits from his Indianapolis Warren Central High School coach's advice, because Greg Graham once did at Indiana what Davis hopes to do -- star for a national basketball powerhouse. He understands the guidance coming from IU coaches who already have him working now on what he must work on when he arrives in Bloomington in a couple of months.

He's seen what such work has done for 6-5 Victor Oladipo, who is skipping his final college season for a shot at NBA riches.

“(Indiana coaches) want to turn me more into a guard, a more all-around player, so I can handle the ball, play on the wing and post-up smaller guards,” Davis says.

No, this doesn't mean Davis will challenge point guard Yogi Ferrell for a starting role. But it does mean Davis will not live in the paint while a Hoosier.

He's fine with that, so he does what is necessary to make instant college impact.

“I'm working on stuff I've never worked before. I'm working on my game every week, four to five times a week. I work on everything -- shooting, dribbling, getting stronger, my explosion with and without the ball, post moves.”

He pauses.

“Guard work. I'm doing a lot of guard work.”

Davis was a high school power forward, which was fine -- for high school. He doesn't project as a college power forward, although he might develop into a solid small forward if he improves his strength and builds his tenacity. He has always been a ferocious rebounder, an attribute every coach loves.

At Warren Central, Davis was an inside force. He averaged 17 points and eight rebounds. His dunks brought crowds to their feet. He made the Indiana All-Star team. He's rated as the nation's No. 21 small forward by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.

But if you saw Syracuse, you know length matters. So does versatility, especially with the way IU plays. Sure, Davis could play some forward, but if he really wants to make an impact, and he does, he's got to develop a perimeter game, play at a consistent high-energy level and maximize his minutes.

“It's going to be a big adjustment,” he says.

Davis is part of a recruiting class that rates No. 6 nationally. He will join classmates Troy Williams, Luke Fischer, Collin Hartman and Stanford Robinson in Friday's Derby Festival Classic at Louisville's Freedom Hall. It's an annual all-star basketball event that draws some of the nation's top recruits.

Not playing on Friday is fellow IU recruit Noah Vonleh, who is in Portland, Ore., this weekend to play for the USA team in the annual Nike Hoop Summit.

For a while it seemed coach Tom Crean might add another player to the incoming class in New Jersey point guard Jaren Sina, ranked No. 121 in the Class of 2013. Sina had originally signed with Northwestern, but got a release after coach Bill Carmody was fired. Sina considered Northwestern (which hired Duke assistant coach Chris Collins) and IU along with Seton Hall (which just hired Red Hill, the former Northwestern assistant coach who recruited Sina for the Wildcats). Indications are he has picked Seton Hall.

Anyway, with the departure of Oladipo and Cody Zeller to the NBA, with the end of college eligibility of Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston, and with the transfer of Remy Abell, this incoming freshman class must make a big impact if IU is to remain a national power.

The Hoosiers are considered a top-20 team next season in early polls.

Davis said the incoming recruits understand the expectations and challenges in following a team that was ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks, won the program's first outright Big Ten title in 20 years, and earned a No. 1 NCAA tourney seed, only to lose in the Sweet 16 to Syracuse.

The Syracuse loss, when IU's guards were manhandled by the Orange and the offense turned into mush against their zone defense, left a big impact.

“We know what we have to do to prepare because we saw what the guards, and all the players, went through,” Davis said. “We don't want to go through that.”