EKU adds D-1 transfer
Butler forward Jackson Davis tweeted out his intention to transfer mid-afternoon Monday.
“Very happy to announce I will be joining @CoachMcHale and @EKUHoops next year! #GoBigE #HeatEmUp”
Davis will be an important addition to Coach McHale’s program. After sitting out games in 2016-2017, per NCAA regulations, Davis will be a junior in 2017-2018 with two years of eligibility remaining. A true student-athlete, leaving Butler was not a decision he came by lightly.
“I did a lot of soul-searching, a lot talking to God and my family,” said Davis. “It just came to a point when I decided what I wanted out of life. I just didn’t involve Butler at this time, but they were very supportive with my decision. They wished me nothing but the best.”
Davis will move back closer to his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. In contrast with his nearly three-year hour drive to Butler University, Davis will now live about 30 miles from home.
“You have to follow your heart and follow God,” said Davis. “Listen to what he is saying and find the best fit and best spot for me.”
Jackson Davis is a Finance major. He will happily continue his education in the same field with EKU.
“It doesn’t hurt that all my credits transfer too,” said Davis. “I plan on graduating in my fourth year and beginning my Masters Program that fifth year. I asked them about it and they were very supportive at getting me starting on my Masters, MBA most likely after that fourth year. In the case that basketball doesn’t work out I will be ahead of the curve and ready to begin with my life.”
With a year a forced observation, Jackson will be able to assimilate academically and athletically without game action. Transfers generally do better with this year than incoming freshmen. Davis acknowledges that he will have to build a new rapport with a new band of coaches.
This is a challenge he welcomes. Coach McHale and the staff will get him on campus this summer, when most of the basketball team reports to campus. If there is any apprehension from Davis is regarding his basketball reputation. With Butler, most hoopers are guaranteed NCAA Tournament exposure (Davis and Butler advanced to the NCAA both years).
Playing with EKU, Davis will only get into the Big Dance by winning the OVC Tournament*.
“Butler is a much bigger school, but not population-wise,” said Davis. “It is a bigger conference, so the publicity would have been there. I wouldn’t have to create my own buzz.”
For Davis to be noticed at EKU by NBA scouts he will have to play great. It happens, as Chris Horton (Austin Peay) proved just this winter. Cameron Payne earned plenty of respect the year before. Still, the likelihood of alluring pro evaluators is smaller.
He was offered by tens of D1 programs out of Lafayette High School and ultimately signed with Butler.
Back in April 2014, Butler was elated to sign the big man, wrangling his signature amidst heated recruiting competition.
“We are very excited about adding Jackson to our current recruiting class,” Head Coach Brandon Miller said in a university release in 2014. “He is a mobile, athletic forward with a skill set that continues to expand. He has rebounded at a very high level and he has continued to improve every year in high school due to his work ethic, which will serve him well as he goes through the demands of college basketball.”
Offers included Alabama, Butler, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, Rice, Minnesota, Texas Tech, Central Florida, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Columbia, Florida State, etc. With his exceptional grades and elite college size Davis had a world of opportunities available to him.
Butler became his home June 2014.
The Butler Experience
Recruited by Head Coach Brandon Miller, Davis stayed under former Assistant, now Head Coach Chris Holtmann.
This season Butler ran an 8-man rotation and Davis was not in it (5.7 mpg). He averaged 2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg on 55.6% shooting. Even though Jackson only saw 6+ minutes three times he tugged down four rebounds all three times.
If you extrapolate Davis’ rebound rate to a full game he would have averaged 11.7 rpg. Of course, bigs never play a full 40 minutes, but the rate suggests a significant two-year impact for Davis in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I have definitely grown up, as a person, being so far away from home,” said Davis. “Even though it is a 3-hour drive I didn’t get to see my family much outside of basketball season. I learned a lot about myself and about my game.”
The Butler Bulldogs continue to be an important program nationally. With Davis’ help the Bulldogs advanced to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Assimilating to a high major conference was not easy, but the transition has been impressively smooth.
Could Davis have continued with Butler? Was he nudged out?
“To start with, Butler said I could come back if I wanted to,” said Davis on the phone from Butler. “Obviously, I already built a life here. But at the same time IUPUI and NKU came at me strong.”
Davis selected Eastern Kentucky over EKU, IUPUI, and NKU. He took visits to all three schools recently.
“Each school had a unique approach,” said Davis. “Teams vary from conference to conference and location to location. Each school basically wanted me to come in and do a similar thing. I think what EKU has is something special.”
New to EKU
Like Indianapolis, Davis’ new home of Richmond, Kentucky is fanatical about basketball. Coming from Butler, he will be expected to dominate when he steps onto the floor.
With his combination of size and soft touch, the expectations and adjoining burden will be heavy upon his back. Still, Davis will be surrounded by gifted teammates. In 2017 Nick Mayo, Anthony Pratt, Parker Chitty, Dujuanta Weaver, and Asante Gist figure to be playing prominent roles.
Davis fits into that future batch favorably.
Though he has not talked directly to Mayo, Davis heard plenty about the reigning OVC Freshman of the Year in the last few weeks.
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to him,” said Davis. “I do know of him and know his game a little bit. I know me and him are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
By the end of a sophomore year, most college students are just beginning to settle into a groove. Many have firmly settled on a major, and are looking to an internship or eyeing life beyond campus. Through this transition Davis will be forced to start anew, with a new basketball program. How is he feeling emotionally with the changes on the horizon?
“Super excited,” said Davis. “I feel that I have made the best choice that I can make at this time. I am excited to be apart of the EKU family.”
*While making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large from the Ohio Vally Conference is possible, last season’s Murray State omission (2014-2015) proved the OVC has a reputation as a one-bid league. Breaking these reputations can take extreme instances.