WhenJustin Davis was a little boy, he didn’t need to look very far for his basketball inspiration. It was in his own living room in the form of his father, Jerome.
You see, Jerome Davis was a tenacious and tough power forward for St. Peter’s College from 1992 through 1997. He was a key cog to the 1995 Peacock team that went to the NCAA Tournament. In his final year with the Peacocks in 1997, Davis averaged 10 points and nearly seven rebounds per game.
Jerome Davis’ father videotaped some of those old SPC games and then took the time to show them to Justin, so he could see how good of a player his father was. It was like handing down the family legacy.
“My Dad’s father showed me some of the games,” Justin Davis said. “Watching Dad made me want to become more of a presence on the court.”
There’s no doubt that Jerome Davis served as a guiding light for his young son.
“He’s been a big influence on my life,” said Justin Davis, now a junior at Hoboken High School and a member of the Redwings’ basketball program. “I knew he was so experienced in the game of basketball. He thinks I don’t listen to him, but I do. He wanted me to be tougher on the court, so that’s what I did.”
There were times when Jerome Davis served as a coach for his budding star son.
“We would go to the courts around the corner from our house and go to shoot,” Justin Davis said. “We both have busy schedules, so it’s tough. Every day, I play basketball, so the days I have my father with me really helps because I have a basketball expert guiding me. I get a lot of support from people who want me to succeed. No one wants that more for me than my father. He wants me to be better than he was.”
Flash forward to 2015 and Davis is making his mark as a varsity basketball player at Hoboken as an undersized sophomore.
At 6-foot-3, Davis really doesn’t have the size to mix it up down low, but he does it and does it quite well, averaging eight points and 10 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
“I knew he was coming along,” said Hoboken head coach Shaun Kolmer. “There was one game where we lost to [St. Peter’s] Prep by two points. Justin had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the game, but he missed two free throws late in the game that hurt us. He insisted that he was the reason why we lost after he had 28 and 14. That’s the type of kid he is.”
Kolmer saw Davis working out during the offseason and knew that this was going to be a breakout year for him.
“I was really expecting big things, because he was always in the weight room,” Kolmer said. “Last year, he looked like a boy, but this year, he looked like a man. He matured so much. He became a team captain. He didn’t miss a workout in the summer or the fall.”
So Davis was poised to have a solid junior year.
“Coach [Kolmer] spoke to me and told me that I couldn’t play at the next level if I didn’t change my game a little,” Davis said. “He told me that I had to become more of an all-around player. If I had hopes of playing at the next level, it wouldn’t be at the four [power forward] or five [center]. I had to become either a two [shooting guard] or the one [point guard]. I had to become well rounded.”
Kolmer also had a bit of advice for his star player.
“He said that a lot of people can score, but not everyone can be a lockdown defender,” Davis said. “Not all can defend all five positions. To make sure I became a better defender, I had to become a better player and that would help me get to the next level.”
Davis enjoyed an incredible run at the end of the season, one not seen by a Hoboken player in almost 30 years.
Davis scored 219 points over his final nine games, an average of 24.3 per contest. He registered a double-double (points and rebounds) in six of those nine games. He had game-highs of 36 against Kearny and 33 against Dayton Regional in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state playoffs. He had 21 rebounds against Secaucus and 18 rebounds against Marist.
More importantly, Davis led the Redwings to three wins in the state playoffs against Technology, Dayton Regional and Bloomfield Tech, enabling Hoboken to play for the state sectional title for the first time since 1992.
For his efforts, Davis has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Davis gave a lot of credit for his success to his teammates, in particular point guard Jeffrey Garcia, who always had a smile and a pat on the back for Davis.
“He always encouraged me, no matter what,” Davis said. “That did wonders for my confidence. Jeffrey has been watching me play since I was very young, so he knew what I could do. I give him a lot of credit. He motivated me a lot. He might be the smallest guy on the court, but he does everything with a lot of heart.”
So does Davis. In that respect, he takes after his father.
“I’m just proud to have had the chance to play with these guys,” said Davis, who saw his season end in the North 2, Group I finale against University of Newark last weekend. “We knew we had to play so hard to be successful. I can honestly say that I’m impressed with the way we played. I think I personally could do a whole lot better, do the little things, anything I can do to get that ring. We left it all on that court, left it all out there. We have no regrets. We left it all out there.”
Kolmer never dreamed that Davis would develop like this, into a regular 20-point, 10-rebound guy.
“I was expecting big things, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this big,” said Kolmer, whose standout product is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game over the last two months of the season. “He’s been our go-to guy on offense for more than a month now. Far and away he has improved being a presence on defense. But on offense, he now scores at will. He can score from anywhere. He can get low in the paint or bring the ball up and run the offense.”
Kolmer is still stunned at what Davis achieved over the last month or so of the season.
“I could never imagine him getting to this level,” Kolmer said. “I still think there’s a chance that he adds more inches. You never know. You look at him and your first thought is that he’s a slow, plodding type. He’s deceptively fast. He can come off the screen and hit shots. He can put the ball on the floor and go. We have to figure out a way to get him the ball next year. He’s the lone returnee coming back. He’s always been the type of guy who gets everyone else involved, who got them ready to perform. Now, he’s developed into something special.”
And Redwings fans, he comes back for another go-round next season. As long as Jerome keeps an eye on him and a strong arm around him, Justin will be just fine. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.