Deyonta Davis has shot to shine for 2nd-seeded Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Deyonta Davis is not impressive on paper.
In real life, he is simply spectacular at times.
Davis has been relatively under the radar for Michigan State by ranking fifth in scoring and third in rebounding.
That could change very soon, and in a big way.
He has a shot to shine for the second-seeded Spartans, starting Friday afternoon against 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee in St. Louis.
''I'm very excited to play in my first NCAA Tournament,'' Davis said Tuesday after practice. ''I hope we can go all the way.''
Davis was part of a made-for-the highlights play in the Big Ten Tournament final, soaring to slam a lob that Denzel Valentine flipped from near the floor late in a win over Purdue.
''I teased Denzel that you can throw a lob from your ankle and it's completed, but if you threw it anywhere in the building, Deyonta is probably like (Inspector) Gadget,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. ''Did you ever see that show? Where he'd just crank that arm. ... That's one of the things Deyonta does that it's hard to coach. I tried coaching that, it just doesn't work with my size.''
Davis makes plays at the other end of the court, too.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward has blocked 63 shots, putting within reach of the school's single-season record that has stood for three-plus decades since Ken Johnson blocked 72 shots.
Davis, though, is often overshadowed by Valentine, a national player of the year candidate, and two more seniors, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello.
Without a doubt, however, Davis is the program's top NBA prospect.
Davis declined to even speculate about whether he will end up being a one-and-done player in college.
''Right now, I'm not even thinking about it,'' Davis said practice. ''I'm just focused on helping us win as many games as we can in the NCAA Tournament.''
If Davis enters the draft, he is projected to be selected late in the league's lottery and associate head coach Dwayne Stephens said his future has been a topic of conversation.
''We've talked about it and he understands he has to improve a lot in a lot of ways,'' Stephens said. ''But we also understand he may have an unbelievable opportunity at the next level, and we'll help Deyonta make the best decision for him.''
Davis, the reigning Mr. Basketball winner in Michigan, decided to be a Spartan after winning one state championship at Muskegon High School.
''When he came here, he would only give you one-word answers,'' Stephens said. ''He's gotten a lot more comfortable, sociably, and he can now carry on a conversation and he'll ask about how my family is doing.''
His high school coach, Keith Guy, said he was lucky to even get one word out of Davis when they met after his freshman season.
''He's grown leaps and bounds in that way,'' Guy said. ''He's a lot more talkative and outgoing now.''
Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage