An emotional Davis seizes the point position at WPI
Whether he is taking the court as the starting point guard for Division 3 power Worcester Polytechnic Institute, playing basketball video games, or watching a game on television, Aaron Davis is totally involved.
“That’s just me. I’m fired up and emotional when it comes to basketball,” said Davis, a 5-foot-10 freshman who left Marshfield High after his sophomore year to prep at the Brooks School in North Andover.
His intelligence, intensity, and immense talent resulted in WPI head coach Chris Bartley and his staff putting on a full-court press during the recruitment process.
“They were at my games and my practices at Brooks, my AAU games, and when I played at showcases,” said Davis, a two-time Independent League All-Star. “I felt WPI, with its winning tradition and a coach whose passion for the game was a lot like mine, would be a good fit and I couldn’t have made a better choice.”
In a 19-0 start for the Engineers, ranked sixth in Division 3, Davis was averaging 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor. He was leading WPI in assists, steals, and blocked shots.
On Dec. 8, he drained a 3-point buzzer-beater for a 78-75 win over Fitchburg State, capping a career-high 16-point performance. Last Saturday, in a matchup against All-American guard Mitch Kates and MIT, Davis delivered 14 points in a 65-59 victory.
“We try to recruit mentally and physically tough kids that love basketball and Aaron embodies what we are looking for,” said Bartley, who inserted Davis into the lineup to replace 2012 graduate Jaime Shannon , an all-conference player.
“The key for us is continuing to build his game — his toughness, his ball handling, his reading of every situation. . . . He doesn’t give an inch and that gives our team confidence.”
Davis, who wears No. 3 because of his admiration for the playing style of former NBA star Alan Iverson, said he was excited to make his college debut, Nov. 15, an 88-75 win over visiting Castleton State.
“I had goose bumps when my name was announced,” he said, “and I hit my first shot, a jumper, in the first couple of minutes. But then I got a little too excited, turned the ball over and committed a foul and coach sent me back to the bench.
“I found out quickly that you could do things in high school that you couldn’t get away with in college and I’m still learning our system.”
Basketball has been a way of life for Davis since he was shooting hoops as a 6-year-old with his father, Lionel, and uncle, Noel, who both played for Brockton High. His aunt, Nancy Thompson was a Division 1 college player at Tulane.
“It’s great to have that family support and to draw on their knowledge of the game,” he said. “My dad coached me in a recreation league in Marshfield, my uncle has been a great mentor, and I think my mom (Rosalind) is into it more than anyone. We talk after all my games and if I’m on the road, we text or e-mail.”
Intrigued by the success of his AAU teammates who played for private/prep teams, Davis repeated his sophomore year at Brooks while recuperating from knee surgery.
With Davis starting at the point, Brooks went 42-11 his final two seasons, advancing to the New England Prep semifinals.
“Aaron was fantastic as a leader. He has a magnetic personality and he was the best high school passer I’ve ever seen,’’ said Brooks head coach John McVeigh. “His basketball IQ was off the charts and he made those around him elevate their game.”
McVeigh’s father, Michael, boys’ basketball coach for 31 seasons at North Andover High, coached Davis’s WPI classmates, Zach Karalis and Mike Moroney, last season. Andover High graduate Jim Costello, another freshman, was also recruited by Bartley.
“Brooks played North Andover and Andover so I got to know Zach, Mike, and Jim and it’s great to have them as teammates and friends,’’ said Davis, an integral part of what is rapidly shaping up as WPI’s 10th consecutive season with 20 or more wins. “I think that’s the best part so far, the closeness of our team. I love being a part of it.”
Rodriguez earns Player of the Week honors in NECC
Former Brockton High star Sabree Rodriguez has been a welcome addition to the women’s basketball team at Regis College in Weston.
A transfer her junior year from the University of Maine Machias, where she was an NAIA All-America honorable mention, the 5-foot-8 senior guard was averaging 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
“I’ve never coached an athlete like her,” said Regis head coach Julie Plant . “When she is focused, there isn’t a Division 3 player in the country that can stay with her.”
Named the New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Week on Jan. 7, Rodriguez had helped lead the Pride to a 12-4 overall record (9-0 conference) prior to Saturday’s game at Mitchell College.
She averaged 12.1 points and nine rebounds her senior year for Brockton’s Division 1 South Sectional champions in 2009.
Odds and ends
Rochester’s Nicole Pruchnik, a freshman on the gymnastics squad at Southern Connecticut State University, has been named the ECAC Division 2 Rookie of Week for her efforts in the Owls’ sweep of Yale and Ithaca on Sunday afternoon at Moore Field House. Pruchnik was first (9.725) on the floor exercise and also captured first place on the vault (9.55). . . . Mansfield High grad Joseph Todd is the new head football coach at Milford High, which is making the move to the Hockomock League for the 2013 season. The defensive coordinator at his alma mater under Mike Redding the past two seasons, the 33-year-old Todd played collegiately at Hofstra and has worked as an assistant at Iona, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wagner. . . . Former Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra will be the featured instructor at the Foxborough-based RBI Baseball Academy’s annual winter hitting clinic Feb. 20-22. For information, go to www.rbiacademy.com or call 508-543-9595.