Greg McMath must be doing something right.
The long-time head basketball coach at Arthur Hill High School has college coaches and scouts flocking to Saginaw to see his players in action.
One player in particular is garnering much of the attention: Eric Davis. The uncommitted class of 2015 recruit has been listed by many outlets as the best basketball prospect in the entire state of Michigan.
Davis isnâ€™t your prototypical star recruit. The talented point guard takes nothing for granted and places great value in his education. After hearing him speak, you might mistake him for being a senior in college rather than high school.
Spartan Nation Radioâ€™s listeners had the chance to hear Davis for themselves recently, as the youngster spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. as he took the show on the road to Saginaw. Davis discussed a variety of topics, including his all-star mom, academics, and the recruiting process, among other topics.
Most highly touted recruits realize their talent early on in their careers. Davis is the exception. His time was spent in other pursuits.
â€œAcademics is really important to me because growing up, I really didnâ€™t have sports. I didnâ€™t know what I wanted to be in life, but I always had academics,â€ Davis said. â€œI just happened to pick up a basketball and started to get good and work on my craft. But at first, I didnâ€™t have sports, it was all academics: I was just a normal kid.â€
Davis did not recognize his outstanding potential until his freshman year when he was invited to attend a prestigious basketball camp.
â€œI was sitting at home talking to my mom, saying, â€˜Ma, this is a dream come true.â€™ After that I said, â€˜Ma, am I really ready for this? Is this really what I want in life?â€™ And she said, â€˜Only you can answer that.â€™ At first, I was kind of down, wondering if I was ready,â€ Davis said. â€œI was overthinking things. I thought, â€˜Wow, Iâ€™m getting invited to the top camp.â€™ I got there, and I told myself, â€˜Just play as hard as you can.â€™
â€œThen I went out there, and I was playing great. Everybody was coming to watch me, saying, â€˜Youâ€™re good.â€™ I said, â€˜Thank you,â€™ and thatâ€™s when I realized I could make this a living.â€
Davis slowly began to draw increased interest from more colleges, accruing scholarship offers along the way.
The young man managed to stay focused despite the increasing attention. In his third year as a starter the Knights, Davis averaged 27 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. The junior was named the Class A Player of the Year and first-team All-State. He has drawn comparisons to players such as Gary Payton for his remarkable intensity on the court.
And thanks to his caring mother, Davis remained a dedicated student in the classroom.
â€œMy mom and I talk about academics every day,â€ Davis said. â€œThatâ€™s the biggest thing because you never know what could happen in life: you could blow out a knee, and the next step is an education, so you need to have that behind you.â€
Davisâ€™ hard work on and off the court has resulted in scholarship offers from prominent programs such as UCLA, Kansas, Florida, Michigan, and Michigan State. Coaches are stumbling over their own feet to hand Davis scholarship letters.
Most recruiters tried to sell Davis on their facilities or winning tradition. However, Tom Izzoâ€™s approach was the one that Davis remembers most.
â€œThe first thing he talked to me about [was] education. That caught my attention,â€ Davis said. â€œHe introduced himself like this: â€˜Hey Iâ€™m Tom Izzo. Before we start, how are your grades? I need to know that first before I help you on the basketball side. I know youâ€™re a heck of a basketball player, but are you as great in the classroom?â€™ I had to be honest, and I told him, â€˜Yes, I am. Coach, thanks for asking. Youâ€™re the first coach ever to actually approach me about that.â€™
â€œThere were a few other coaches who said that [later], but he was the first one to actually recruit me. That was really shocking,â€ Davis said. â€œI am a student. I donâ€™t just say that. I want an education and a degree. It matters to me and to him.â€
The young manâ€™s interest in academics should come as no surprise. After all, Davisâ€™ mind is his greatest asset, according to his coach.
â€œHe has a great basketball mind,â€ McMath said. â€œThe kid is highly intelligent, not just on the floor, but in the classroom. Heâ€™s a 3.5 student. Eric has a great basketball mind and a great feel for the game.â€
Davis plans on take his time to ponder his options and make up his mind. While he loves the recruiting process, his focus on basketball hasnâ€™t wavered.
â€œIâ€™ve just been to Michigan, Michigan State, NC State, thatâ€™s really about it,â€ Davis said. â€œI really havenâ€™t been thinking about too many schools.
â€œIâ€™ve just been enjoying this year and just trying to win, thatâ€™s the biggest thing. I think as a senior, as you get older, the biggest thing you learn is the value of winning. A lot of kids my age undervalue winning.â€
The 6â€™3, 160 pound prospect will bring his team wins no matter what team he plays for. Over the summer, Davis plans on playing for his AAU team before shipping out for Colorado Springs in July to play for the USA 17-under developmental squad. Then it will be back to training for his senior season at Arthur Hill.
â€œI never want to stop working. This is something I love to do, so Iâ€™m always going to work. Basketball helps you stay disciplined,â€ Davis said. â€œItâ€™s so easy nowadays to get caught up in the streets or bad influences. Itâ€™s more than a game for me, it guides me down the right path and keeps me focused on academics, etc. Itâ€™s like a parent to me.â€
Davis might not appear to take much stock in the recruiting process, since he spends more time improving his game rather than becoming absorbed in the recruiting process. But the Saginaw native appreciates every part of the journey.
â€œA lot of kids put a lot of work into it, but sometimes it doesnâ€™t happen, so Iâ€™m thankful for everything I got because it could always be taken from me at any point and time,â€ Davis said. â€œIâ€™m just going to take every time I play or meet someone as if itâ€™s my last. I may never see someone again, so I want to make a good impression and let them walk away and say, â€˜Wow, heâ€™s a great kid.â€™â€
Davis is also mature enough to recognize all the people who helped him reach this point in his life.
â€œI thank [my mom] every day before I go to school and tell her I love her,â€ Davis said. â€œA lot of kids who are basketball players donâ€™t really have a male role model behind them, so Iâ€™m really grateful for everything I have. I donâ€™t [take] advantage of anyone or anyoneâ€™s time, Iâ€™m just enjoying the process. I thank everyone for all the support.â€
Hopefully for the Spartan Nation, this wonderful young man will end up in East Lansing.
Davis currently has no list of top schools, but he respects Izzo and his tradition of success.
â€œCoach Izzo has a great history of guards: Mateen Cleaves, Keith Appling, Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers. He does a great job with his guards,â€ Davis said. â€œEveryone heâ€™s got from Saginaw, he hasnâ€™t let down: both guys [Jason Richardson and Draymond Green] are in the league. Thatâ€™s really impressive to me. And like I said, Coach Izzo is a great guy. He takes care of his players, 1 through 12, even the walk-ons and the scout team players. Heâ€™s going to push you to the limit and help you become what you want to become in life.â€
Wherever Davis decides to go to school, this young man has the skills and smarts to go far in life. He is a super basketball player, but an even better young man. When asked about his greatest success, he totally stayed off the court. â€œI just got Aâ€™s on my finals. That meant a lot to me.â€
Like we said, Davis is the true definition of a student athlete.