BLOOMINGTON — Is Indiana forward De'Ron Davis set to be a star?
Why not, asks coach Archie Miller.
“He's going to be a major, major league player for us next year,” Miller says. “He should be one of the most improved players in all of college basketball if we can get done what we want to get done.
“The opportunity is there.”
The 6-10 Davis showed flashes during last season's freshman debut when he averaged 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in a reserve role. He's shown more during spring workouts as Miller implements his system. The coach was hired to replace Tom Crean last month.
“He has terrific hands and footwork,” Miller says of Davis. “He's really put me in an aggressive mode with him in terms of what he has to do for next year.
“It starts with his work ethic in these next 12 weeks. He's got to change his body. He's got to change his motor. He's got to prevent injuries and do some things which he didn't have the opportunity to do a year ago as he entered campus.”
Unlike teammate Thomas Bryant, who often plays outside as much as inside, the 240-pound Davis is an in-the-paint force who understands his role. In 471 minutes last season he took zero three-point shots.
Davis scored as many as 15 points, grabbed as many as five rebounds. He thrived with physicality and finesse, which reflects his strong around-the-basket skills.
You want Davis on the free-throw line. He was IU's second-best free throw shooter, at 75.6 percent, to guard James Blackmon's 83.7 percent.
What Davis doesn't have is the fitness to match the skill.
Expect that to change.
“We've got to find a way, when you see him in October and November, that you say, 'Wow, what happened to him, he looks like a new man,'” Miller says. “If you're not saying that, then we didn't get if done.
“But if he does, he's going to have a chance to have a good year.”
High school academic obligations prevented Davis from getting to Bloomington last year until late summer, which hurt his physical preparation. A series of nagging injuries limited him throughout the season.
Now Davis will work with new strength coach Clif Marshall (officially known as director of athletic performance) to boost his fitness and strength.
“The whole key to his game and development starts with his body,” Miller says. “He doesn't have to touch a ball here for four or five weeks. We've got to get his body and motor to go for heavy minutes. He can't play heavy minutes right now, and that will hurt him.”
Davis averaged 13.9 minutes last year. His 89 fouls were the fourth most on the team.
Miller has noticed.
“When he can play 25-plus minutes a game without fouling, you're going to see a guy who can do a lot of different things. Operate out of the post. Offensive rebound. Get fouled. Be a defensive presence for us. Be physical inside with his size. Do some things in transition he hasn't done before.
“There are some things we're going to ask him to do where he's going to have to really grow up.”
Davis' importance will be even greater if Bryant stays in the draft and doesn't return to school. The 6-10 sophomore has until May 24 to decide.
After his freshman year, when Bryant averaged 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while setting a school record by shooting 68.3 percent from the field, he was considered an NBA first-round pick. His stock dropped after an inconsistent sophomore season, although he did surge at the end to average 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 51.9 percent.
Impressive workouts with NBA teams can boost his draft status.
“Thomas has really pushed toward finding answers out,” Miller says.
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