PROVO — At the time, the BYU basketball team, led by superstar Jimmer Fredette, had reached the apex of its season, earning a No. 3 spot in the national polls, its highest ranking in 23 years. The Cougars were fresh off a road victory over a top-10 team, San Diego State, on national television, and were projected to be a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
But a few days after that win, things changed dramatically in BYU's dream season with the stunning announcement that forward Brandon Davies had been suspended for violating the school's honor code.
News of Davies' suspension made headlines all around the country and around the world.
After all the Provo native has been through, including his reinstatement to the team, Davies talked publicly Tuesday for the first time about his ordeal — 72 hours before BYU tips off the 2011-12 season Friday at Utah State.
"It's definitely been hard. It's been hard on a lot of people, not just myself," he told reporters following Tuesday's practice at the Marriott Center. "I'm just lucky to be surrounded with people that love me and a great team and great family members and friends."
Davies declined to speak last month to the media, and the plan was for him to talk after the season-opener. But he decided to end his silence sooner.
"Now that the season has started, I have more positive things to go through than what I've had to go through," he said. "It feels better to actually have something good to talk about now, which is basketball."
Davies voluntarily withdrew from BYU last spring, but worked with the school's dean of students in order to be re-admitted in August. Davies met certain conditions set by the school that enabled him to return to BYU as a student and as a member of the basketball team.
Was there a time when he considered leaving BYU?
"There were lot of thoughts that went through my head, just trying to deal with it all," he said. "But it was a one-step-at-time type of thing. I didn't really look forward to anything, just kind of took it as it would come the best that I could."
Davies said he was never contacted by other schools during the process.
"I tried to make it as clear as I could that I wanted to be here with my teammates and stay here if at all possible," he said. "Thank goodness, it was."
In BYU's first game after the suspension was announced, an embarrassing home loss to New Mexico, Davies — a starter and the team's leading rebounder — was conspicuously absent. But two days later, Davies was allowed to sit on the bench, in street clothes, for the home-finale against Wyoming.
Not only that, but Davies was allowed to participate in the cutting-down-the-nets ceremony after the game. The Marriott Center crowd cheered Davies loudly that day.
"It felt good," he said of that reaction. "There were a lot of mixed emotions going on in my head at that point, not sure how people were going to react and not sure how I was going to react. I thought the overall situation was handled well."
Davies remained on the bench for all of BYU's postseason games, which included a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
"It hurt" not being able to play, Davies said. "Not just me, but everyone around me. 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."
He was grateful to be able to be with his teammates, even though he couldn't play.
"That meant a lot, just to have my teammates knowing that I'm still there and to be allowed to do that is another blessing to me," Davies said. "It was great to still be a part of my team."
Asked if he was happy with the way the school handled the situation, Davies said, "I'm just happy to be back. It doesn't matter what I had to go through to get here. I'm just glad to be here, back with my teammates and back here where I'm supported and loved by so many ... I was definitely treated more than fair. Just to be able to make it back here and be able to be part of this team again is a blessing to me."
Davies said that the community response has been "mostly positive," adding that he was aware of the abundant national coverage of his situation.
"I tried not to pay attention to it, but it's always out there," he said. "There's always going to be good things and there's always going to be bad things. But you've got to push through it. It really doesn't matter what people think as long as I know that I've grown as a person and know it's only going to get better."
But what will happen when he goes on the road, particularly at Utah State on Friday?
"I personally love playing on the road. I love the hostile environment," he said. "I don't know what's going to be said, but I'm ready for it. I'm pretty good at ignoring things like that. That's part of the game. You get that anywhere you go. It's one of the toughest places to play. We all expect it. But it doesn't matter. It's not going to affect me."
The entire experience has galvanized the team, Davies said.
"It's definitely strengthened us. I think it's a bad thing, a terrible thing that we all had to go through. They were all willing to go through it with me and pull through together. I think that says a lot about their character and the way we are as a team."
Now that Davies is available to talk publicly, the questions are likely to continue coming from national media outlets. He's willing to continue answering questions.
"It's still kind of tender. But I feel like most media are going to be pretty respectful of the situation," he said. "I'm more than happy to shine my light on it and help other people if needed. As far as talking to them about it, I'm pretty sure that everyone knows the story by now. It's coming to a close pretty much. But it's what I had to go through and I'm willing to share that just to help others so they don't have to go through what I had to go through."
Davies said he's gone through a significant change during the past year, both as a player and as a person.
"Basketball is pretty much all I've got going for me right now. Just to be there to help my teammates in any way that I can is kind of driving me to become a better player. Hopefully I can continue to do that for my teammates and for myself … I honestly think I'm a totally different person. But that's up to other people to decide. I can't really tell someone that I've changed. It's up to me to actually show that. Hopefully I'm (going) in the right direction.
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