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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue's Rapheal Davis gets that he's no Big Dog, although if he ever tapped into Glenn Robinson's basketball mojo for even one game, look out.
The sophomore without a defined position understands he must lead as he hasn't before, that actions alone are no longer enough.
Davis burns that the Boilers are considered Big Ten lightweights (the consequence of this season's last-place finish), and that cannot continue.
It will not last, he says.
“It can click in. If everybody puts in the time, works together, plays a lot in open gym, we'll shock a lot of people. It might be the biggest turnaround in Purdue history.”
Hold that thought, and consider this:
“Coach (Matt) Painter told me I'm an extension of him. I'm the only captain right now. I have to make sure everything is going right with the team. I have to get in their ears and try to get them better.”
Then, finally, there is this:
Davis watches tape of Robinson, the Pacers' Lance Stephenson (the good Lance and not the one that sometimes goes over the edge), and anyone else he can learn from.
He wants to be really good. He expects the Boilers to return to Big Ten contender status, and why not next season?
“We want people to watch the games and say Purdue got better. Purdue worked hard in the off-season.
“We'll take the off-season like it's a game. We'll try to win the off-season. We want people to look at us and say, those guys got better. That will satisfy me.”
First, some clarity. The 6-5 Davis is listed as a guard, although he basically can play every position except center.
“I'm a player,” he says. “Coach can put me at any position and I'll battle and play my hardest. I'll give it my all. A position doesn't define who I am. I'm just a hard nosed player.”
Davis is, in a lot of ways, exactly what Painter needs more of. The former South Side standout cares, listens, battles. He is poised to be a huge catalyst in the Boilers' hoped-for-return to basketball glory, and he uses all available tools.
This is, after all, the youtube age and it's 24/7 possibilities.
“I don't try to emulate a player,” Davis says, “but every night I watch a lot of youtube videos and workout videos, people who play my position, how they play and the moves they make. What gets them to the basket. What gets them open. Things like that.
“I'm learning the game more from a mind standpoint.”
That sometimes leads him to Robinson, a 6-7 scoring machine during his All-America Purdue days. Davis is no where near that level, although he did score as many as 18 points this season.
“I know I'm not a Big Dog player, but I watched when he played against Michigan when they had the Fab 5 and he scored 37 on them.
“I watch a lot of Lance Stephenson because we're about the same height. He's a lot heavier than me, but the way we play is similar from a physical standpoint.”
How does Davis play? He was a non-conference enigma, struggling to find his game other than a 14-point, seven-rebound effort against Central Connecticut State. It didn't come together until February, when he scored in double figures in five of his last nine games, and recorded at least eight rebounds in four of those games. He had his first college double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) against Michigan.
Davis finished with averages of 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds, while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and a lowly 27.7 percent from three-point range.
He also ranked second on the team in free throw shooting (77.9 percent) and had 42 assists against 27 turnovers. That is why he might see some -- emphasis on the “some” -- point guard action.
“Yeah, I can play it. That's why I'm working hard on my dribble and decision making. I want to be able to get the team into offense, bring the ball up, know where everybody will be. That comes from watching a lot of gym and working in the gym.
“I have to be able to guard quicker guys on the perimeter. Coach knows I can guard and bang with (small and power forwards), but I have to show I can guard quick (shooting guard) or a bigger (point guard) on the perimeter. I'll have to make shots next year and not turn the ball over.”
That's true of all the Boilers as they look to stop consecutive losing seasons, end the under-achieving and restore the relevance in a proud program.
“As a team we have to focus on the little things and buying in on every little thing in the game. Just listening is a skill. Some people don't have it. If we all do, we'll be all right.”
The Big Dog couldn't have said it better.