INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to recruiting, facilities matter. Do not forget that.
Indiana recruit De'Ron Davis doesn't.
In a substance world, in the cutthroat environment of college recruiting, style counts. Bells and whistles have impact.
So here is Davis, looming large in a Northview Middle School hallway as part of the adidas Invitational, speaking about his recruitment. Indiana, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas and Arizona have offered scholarships even though he is still more than a month away from his sophomore year at Overland High School in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado.
He has visited Colorado and Arkansas. Yes, he's interested in education and basketball. But the wow factor wasn't unnoticed.
“I like Arkansas's facilities,” he said. “They're really nice. Colorado just got done building a new weight room and a players' lounge. It's good.”
And then …
“I really like Arkansas' facilities.”
For the record, Davis has not visited IU. He has not seen tradition-rich Assembly Hall or state-of-the-art Cook Hall, which are certain to make a big impression. He said he hopes to schedule a visit, “hopefully this summer or real soon.”
Davis was once considered among the nation's top five eighth graders. Now he's a top-10 player in the Class of 2016 according to ESPN.com. He is 6-8 and 220 pounds, and figures to be, if not taller, certainly more muscular by the time he reaches college.
IU coach Tom Crean and his staff, particularly associate head coach Steve McClain, who once was an assistant at Colorado, have apparently made Davis a priority. They were the first to offer him a scholarship, which came a year ago.
“Coach Crean tells me to keep improving, keep working out,” Davis said. “Every time I talk to him, I'm about to do a workout and he says, 'Just keep doing what you're doing. Stay in the gym.'”
And so Davis does. He tries to maximize the benefits of high-altitude training given that Aurora is more than a mile above sea level and within easy range of mountains that soar well above 10,000 feet.
“I've been doing a lot of agility drills (to improve athleticism), working out and using Colorado air to run up and down hills, and get on the track,” he said.
It's paying off, he added. He's fitter, faster and more agile.
“I can move better. When I play against bigger and slower people, that comes in handy.”
Crean and McClain kept track of Davis when he played in last summer's Las Vegas Super 64 event and when he was invited to last fall's USA Basketball's Developmental National Team mini-camp in Colorado Springs. McClain spent a pair of April weekends watching Davis and his Colorado Hawks travel ball squad compete in tournaments in Denver and Dallas.
Crean and McClain both watched Davis, along with highly regarded Colorado Hawks point guard Austin Conway, play Wednesday in the adidas Invitational. McClain again attended Hawks games in Indianapolis.
What they saw was a player who is, Colorado Hawks coach Art Williams said, a fierce competitor.
“De'Ron is a complete player. He's trying to improve on his post moves and stepping out and hitting the jump shot.”
What separates Davis and Conway, who also is on IU's recruiting radar, is their work ethic, Williams added.
“They're the hardest-working guys on the team. That's why they continue to get better. That's why they are elite players – because of their work ethic. They play really hard.”
Sometimes playing hard isn't enough. The Colorado Hawks lost to Team Loaded Thursday. Still, that didn't diminish their determination to win a championship, with Davis and Conway setting the tone.
“They're good kids,” Williams said. “They want to be better every day. When they step in the gym, they get better because of that.”