BYU basketball: Cougars very proud of what Davies has done with his second chance

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 6:00 a.m. MST

"I'm just so proud of the kid. Some people will think that's a weird thing to say. But I've been around him a lot and we've become really close friends. I've seen him grow in so many ways off the court," Holmoe said. "I like the kid a ton. I just like him. He doesn't need a lot of pats on the back. He's always ready to go. Whenever I see him, we'll chat for a while. He asks me how things are going for me. He'll ask me about football, and he talks about football. He's just a good guy. I'm glad we had that opportunity to grow closer in our relationship. I love all our student-athletes and that's my favorite part of the job. We've gotten pretty close. It wouldn't have happened without a tough experience like that."

Amid that tough experience, Davies changed — in some ways.

"He's matured quite a bit," said senior guard Brock Zylstra, one of the few current BYU players who was on the team that season. "He's still always going to be a kid, that's his personality. He likes to joke around and have fun. But he's matured as far as decision-making on the court and taking responsibility off the court to improve his game."

Certainly, Davies doesn't take anything for granted.

During the Cougars' run to the Sweet 16 in 2011, he sat on the bench in street clothes, aching to be on the court with his teammates. "It hurt" not being able to play, Davies said. "It's definitely something I'll never forget about and it's something I never want to do again. I just use that to drive me in all that I do today."

Last season, Davies averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and helped the Cougars post a 26-9 record.

Zylstra is impressed by Davies' perseverance.

"I admire him so much because of what he's gone through, and then battling back and having a great season," he said. "He's setting himself up to have an even better season this year. What he's been through, and how he's overcome it, is unbelievable."

It stands as one of the biggest what-ifs in BYU sports history — what if Davies had been able to play with Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery in the NCAA Tournament that season? Maybe BYU would have reached the Final Four for the first time ever.

As devastating as it was for BYU to lose Davies, he was embraced even more by coaches, teammates, fans and the university community, which made his return easier.

"I'm just lucky to be surrounded with people that love me and a great team and great family members and friends," he said.

When his future was uncertain, Davies considered his many options, but he realized where he belonged. "I was working my way back to BYU from the get-go," Davies recalled.

Still, there was a time when Holmoe wasn't sure Davies would return to play for the Cougars.

"At first, I didn't know what to think," he said. "Brandon handled it really well. There was the matter of getting through that. Then when he made certain commitments to come back is when, for me, I said, 'All right, I'll do anything to help you through it.' There were so many people on campus that reached out to him. I was just one of them."

In recent months, Davies has felt a sense of urgency, and has worked tirelessly to prepare for his final season in Provo.

"It's hit me that I'm a senior," he said. "During the summer, I realized it's time to roll, and it bumped up my work ethic."

BYU star linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who suffered the consequences of a mistake that delayed his enrollment at BYU, has forged a tight friendship with Davies.

"We became best friends over some circumstances, similar paths, going through adversity," Van Noy said. "We have a close relationship. I love Brandon. He's happy because he's worked so hard. I've watched him shoot baskets over and over and over. He put in so much hard work in the offseason."

"He worked extremely hard in the summer," Zylstra said. "His work ethic is the best I've seen since I've been here."

Among other things, Davies has spent considerable time expanding his shooting range.

"He's going to demand a lot of attention in the low post," Rose said. "The more ways for him to score away from the basket, the better. I think he's improved his distance on his range every year he's been here. He's very skilled. Trying to mix that low-post toughness and tenacity and finesse on the perimeter is a special thing to have, and hopefully he can continue to develop it."

Davies isn't motivated by individual accolades — for him, it's about the team.

"I like to see progression. That's one thing that's a positive thing, to see that you're getting better and helping other people get better as well," he said. "It becomes contagious. When you're doing that for yourself, other people hop on board with it as well. That's a great part of being on this team."

The Cougars are looking to contend for a West Coast Conference championship, post their seventh consecutive 25-win season and make their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Davies is determined to make sure BYU reaches those goals and fashion a happy ending to his "really unique" career.

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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