OGDEN — Nothing was sugar-coated for Davion Berry when he was considering transferring to Weber State three years ago.
Then Weber standout Damian Lillard, a former AAU teammate of Berry’s back in Oakland, informed him that head coach Randy Rahe ran a tight ship with a lot of discipline and structure. Rahe himself told Berry he’d be held accountable for his actions unlike anything he was used to in high school or at Division II program Cal State Monterey Bay.
The demands might’ve scared off others, but with a young son in the equation, Berry knew signing with Weber State was an obvious decision.
“I needed to become a better man. I needed to become a father figure to my son,” said Berry.
Under the backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains the past three years, that’s exactly what Berry’s become.
“He’s probably matured in our program as much as anybody I’ve ever heard. I really believe that, and you can see the results,” said Rahe.
It wasn’t always easy being away from his son, Davion Jr., who is now 4 and lives with his mother in Oakland — particularly during his first year at Weber State when NCAA transfer rules forced him to sit out a year.
Rahe even recalls Berry coming into his office one day back in November 2011 and saying, “gosh this is hard.”
Something Rahe said resonated with Berry, though, helping him buy into the program and the Weber State culture.
“I told him the best thing I think you can do for your son is get your education so you can take care of him, and then have a helluva two-year career and then go make money playing basketball with a degree,” said Rahe. “Now you can really take care of your son.”
Done and done.
On Friday, the Big Sky Player of the Year will lead Weber State onto the national stage against heavily favored Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and a few months later he will graduate from Weber State with a bachelor’s degree in technical sales — becoming the first college graduate in his family.
Beyond that, Rahe expects Berry will have a long basketball career ahead of him. He obviously won’t make a big rookie splash like his good friend Lillard did his first year in the NBA, but the opportunities will be there for the 6-foot-4 guard.
“He’s going to play at a high level, we’ll see where it leads. He’s the kind of kid that can play for a long time too,” said Rahe.
Many parts of Berry’s game speak for themselves. He’s a genuine stat stuffer, averaging 19.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists, and he can get to the free-throw line with regularity where he made 82 percent of his shots this season.
It’s tough to quantify everything else he does on the court, but Weber State wouldn’t be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 without those numerous intangibles.
“Davion is one of those guys that’s really good at every area. It might not jump out at you, but one thing you don’t probably see unless you know basketball really well is how good of a feel for the game he has. He has a unique feel for how the game is played. He sees everything,” said Rahe. “He has a very high basketball IQ. He’s a very smart player.”
Those qualities were among the reasons Rahe initially recruited Berry out of high school six years ago, but his grades weren’t good enough and he was forced to go the Division II route.
Rahe, however, kept tabs on Berry during his time at Cal State Monterey Bay, which included being named a Division II All-American his sophomore season. With endorsement from Lillard, a player Berry always looked up to growing up, getting him to Weber State from Monterey Bay was an easy sell.
Originally, Berry had visions of playing alongside Lillard during his senior season, but Lillard declared himself for the NBA draft after his scintillating junior season.
Though the two never played in a game together during their time at Weber State, they practiced together countless hours at the Dee Events Center and Lillard made a lasting impression on Berry on and off the court.
“He always treated everybody the same, down to the coaches, down to the managers, down to the people that get us watch, down to the people that wash our clothes. He was just a great genuine person. There wasn’t nobody that he treated differently,” said Berry.
On the court, Berry said, “I’ve never seen anybody work harder than him. Hard work pays off. When you come to Weber State, you’ve got to work hard because the coach isn’t going to let you get away with just being average, they’re going to keep pushing you.”
Rahe’s been pushing Berry for three years now, and the reward is a chance to play in the NCAA tournament this Friday.
The hard work should lead to many more rewards for Berry, who said simply putting food on the table for his son was one of his goals when signing with Weber State.
Three years later, those ambitions have swelled.
“I envision myself being a coach. I love kids, I love coaching. I know the game a lot just ’cause I’ve been around it so much. I love working out with kids, coaching them, watching them grow and have fun,” said Berry. “Hopefully I can start an AAU team and coach my son and develop him into being a great young man and getting a Division I scholarship.”