Indiana center De’Ron Davis facing “slow process” this summer in returning to the basketball court

Indiana University sophomore center De'Ron Davis (20) drives on Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr (34) during the first half of a game in Bloomington last season. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University men's basketball coach Archie Miller gestures during the first half of his team's game against Duke last season in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)

There were moments early last season where Indiana University basketball fans were teased (some would say tortured) by the potential of then-sophomore center De’Ron Davis.

Take the 91-81 loss to then-No. 1 Duke in Bloomington for example.

After being limited to just five minutes of action (due to foul trouble) in the opening half, Davis hit four of his five second-half shots and totaled 12 points in that period, alone.

That amount matched heralded Blue Devil freshman center Marvin Bagley III, who just might be the first player selected in next Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“Clearly having De’Ron as a presence in the second half was a real benefit,” Hoosier coach Archie Miller said following the game.

Davis finished that night having scored 16 points and grabbing five rebounds in just 21 minutes of time and visions of what he could be danced in every Indiana fans’ head, as well as Miller’s, as they slumbered out of Assembly Hall into the chilly November night.

“Being able to play through De’Ron in the second half one-on-one in the post,” Miller explained, “he’s tough to deal with, with that type of spacing, and he delivered for us. He really played well.”

Davis followed that impressive effort up with a four-point, one rebound performance in an Indiana rout at eventual national runner-up Michigan.

The 6-foot-10 athlete missed five of his seven shots against the Wolverines and played just 18 minutes.

Those two games summed up Davis’ second season in a nutshell. It was tantalizing, yet unfulfilling, as he averaged 9.6 points per game and 4.3 rebounds in 15 games.

Davis connected on five of seven shots en route to 14 points and grabbed a season-best seven boards at Louisville a week after the debacle at Michigan. But in his final five games, he never scored in double figures again and eventually had his season ended by injury (Achilles) in a practice following a disappointing effort (by the entire Indiana team) at Wisconsin in early January.

The Hoosier veterans returned to campus a couple of weeks ago to resume training for the 2018-19 season and Miller said that Davis is facing a more challenging journey than his teammates.

“It’s a difficult surgery for anyone to come back from,” Miller said recently. “A guy like De’Ron, who is that size (6-10, 249 pounds), can put on some weight when he’s not allowed to do anything. It makes things just a little more difficult.”

The Indiana players were allowed to go home for a brief period of time in May but Miller said that Davis remained in Bloomington and continued to rehabilitate his injury with Indiana head athletic trainer Tim Garl.

“We have taken it really slow (with Davis),” Miller said. “He has done a really nice job here in the last three to four weeks as he has been in summer school by himself, exclusively just working on his rehab. But we are taking it slow.”

Miller has 18 players on his 2018-19 roster, six of whom are new to the program, and he stressed how important it was for those players to build chemistry as a team over the next few months. However, in the case of Davis, he won’t be able to do that, which will be a setback – to a degree – once he is able to compete on the basketball court.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” Miller said. “He’s got to get himself into a situation where he can start to feel comfortable running and then start the conditioning.

“From a contact perspective, a basketball perspective, I don’t think De’Ron will be ready for that this summer. We’ll be pushing it towards our fall program and then moving into November.”

The Hoosiers did pick up a 6-foot-10 graduate transfer in Evan Fitzner from Saint Mary’s, who can provide minutes until Davis is ready to get into games, and Miller also has sophomore Clifton Moore (6-foot-10) at his disposal, as well.

“We have to take it slow,” Miller reiterated, “and we have to be really mindful of how he communicates and how he feels. But talking to Tim Garl here in the last week, De’Ron has really strung together some really good days and I think that he is progressing.”

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