Davis enters MSU as the program’s first McDonald’s All American since Gary Harris in 2012. He had an elite career at Muskegon High, winning a state title in his junior season as he set a single season state record for blocks in a season. He also was the easy winner of the Mr. Basketball award as a senior.
All of that would typically lead to huge expectations, even for a freshman, but as I’ve been saying pretty much ever since he committed, it would be wise to pump the brakes a bit. Deyonta has immense potential…NBA potential…maybe even Lottery pick potential at some point. His combination of size at 6’10”, high end athleticism for a big kid and 7’2″ wingspan means he has all the physical tools you could want (save strength, but we’ll get to that in a minute) and yet he’s also a kid who has a pretty decent skill set already, with range extending out to near (if not beyond) the three point arc. Yet, as with most big kids, there’s still a lot of learning and developing to do before he’s truly ready to make good on all of that promise.
The first issue for DD is strength. He’s now listed by MSU at 240lbs, up about 30lbs from where he started his senior year at Muskegon. Judging by the way he’s looked in recent photos and even the Italian tour, I’d say that number is accurate. He’s gotten noticably bigger. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s markedly *stronger* than he was, but that will come in time as well. My expectation is that at times, he’ll struggle to hold post position…that’s a transition that most big men go through and I don’t think he’ll be an exception. The good news is that he’s got tools (size and athleticism on defense and range on offense) to still find ways to be effective even if he’s losing the strength battle on the blocks, but he won’t be the player he can be in totality until that issue is resolved.
The second and bigger (IMO) issue for him this year is simply understanding the game at this level. DD struggled with fouls in Italy and that shouldn’t surprise anybody. I suspect he will have similar problems at times this season as he adjusts to the speed and strength of players and MSU’s defensive system and what it requires of him. Asking a teenager to flawlessly execute defending of the pick and roll, for example, is often going to be a bridge too far…you sort of have to fail at it before you can succeed.
Now, I realize this reads negative and I don’t want that to be the overall impression. I think by March, we’re going to see more and more consistent signs of high level play from Deyonta, and we’ll see flashes even before that point. I just know how it goes for many fans…they see the accolades he’s received and expect 20 and 10 immediately. It doesn’t work that way for most big kids and I don’t think he’s an exception. With Clark likely out of the mix or very limited early on, DD does have an opportunity to claim a starting spot for himself opposite either Schilling or Costello. Whether he wins that or not, I suspect he’s going to be a guy whose playing time is in the high teens to maybe 20 per game, at least before we move into Big Ten action. I do think that development could come very quickly with him…that’s how it went at Muskegon and I suspect we could see that repeat at this level. It’s just a matter of time, some physical development, and reps. For now, I look at him as a guy who can help MSU with interior defense and rebounding and by sticking the occasional midrange jumper and running the floor in transition. That’s plenty good for the moment, but much bigger and better things will come down the line.