Davis not in Kansas anymore

By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 20, 1996

This season's NCAA Tournament has doubled as a sort of reunion tour for the Wildcats. First, UA head coach Lute Olson met and defeated Iowa, the team he coached for 10 seasons before coming to Arizona in 1983. Now, senior center Ben Davis gets a chance to play the team he first signed with out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, Kansas.

For the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Davis, who left Kansas after one season because of a lack of playing time, this game will be a chance to see Calvin Rayford and Sean Pearson, two Jayhawks who were recruited with Davis.

Davis described Rayford, who is the Jayhawks' backup point guard, as a "real good friend," but in the end, it was need to be on the court more that won out, and Davis subsequently transferred to Florida. He never suited up for the Gators, transferred to Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College where he became an All-American, and found his way to Arizona last season.

"There were a lot more good things than bad," Davis said about his days in Lawrence. "There just wasn't enough playing time. That was probably the only reason (for leaving)."

While it has taken some time, it does not surprise Kansas coach Roy Williams that Davis, a second-team All-American at Oak Hill, has found both a home and success.

"I'm not surprised at all. Ben is a good, good kid," Williams said. "It didn't work out as good as it could have (at Kansas), but he's a fantastic youngster."

Davis, who leads the Wildcats with 14.3 points and 9.7 rebounds, has nothing but positives about his time at Kansas and his relationship with Williams, who still corresponds with the forward and sent him a Christmas card last year.

"I think he's a great coach, very down to earth, the same as Coach Olson," Davis said about Williams. "You can walk in (his office) anytime."

Williams is equally high on Davis.

"I'll be like a parent," Williams said. "I'll look to see how Davis did before I see if Arizona won."

Arizona head coach Lute Olson said he didn't foresee Davis, the definition of a controlled player on the court, being overly emotional about the meeting with his former team.

"With Ben, you don't get a guy who's overly emotional. He just goes out and plays," Olson said.

While Davis has bounced around, a consistent trait of all his stops has been the relationships he has developed with his coaches. Olson told of how Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith was so taken with Davis, he had him baby-sit his children.

Olson has shared a lot with Davis, including having to tell him he would have to sit out the Fall semester last season because of problems with credit transfer from Hutchinson. Davis' response to that adversity, Olson said, says a lot about the senior.

"You could see the disappointment," Olson said, "but he said if that was the worst thing that ever happened to him, he'd have a pretty good life.

"In my opinion he's a very special young man. I'm very happy for a lot of guys in our program this year, but there's no one I'm more happier for than to see the kind of year Ben Davis has had."