Nike campers like Mike (Davis)
BY MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer
Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2002
INDIANAPOLIS -- D.J. White has known Mike Davis since the two attended the same Baptist church in Alabama.
He likes Davis, likes the Indiana offense and likes the idea of playing at Indiana.
And Davis is one of the primary reasons White, regarded as one of America's 10 best high-school juniors, lists the Hoosiers among his favorite college teams.
"My decision is going to depend on the type of relationship I have with the coach," said White, a 6-foot-7, 233-pound forward from Tuscaloosa, Ala. "So I want to be with a good coach."
In two years, Davis has gone from virtual unknown to the talk of the camp.
Speak to any of the highly-regarded players here and they usually refer to Davis by name, a respect not accorded many coaches.
Players say they like Davis' style, his honesty, the way he builds relationships -- and it appears to be paying dividends.
"I like his attitude," said Vakeaton Wafer, a 6-4, 203-pound swingman from Homer, La. "He came to my school and was straight up with me. He said 'I'm not going to promise you will start or that you'll make the NBA. But if you work hard, you will have a chance to do those things.' "
Wafer's stock has risen quickly. A few months ago, Wafer said only one school -- Louisiana Tech -- was interested in him. Now, everybody is -- including Indiana -- and Wafer put the Hoosiers near the top of his list because of Davis' visit.
Other highly-regarded recruits have followed suit.
Ndubi Ebi, a 6-7, 192-pound forward from Houston, and Brian Randle, a 6-7, 189-pound forward from East Peoria, Ill., are both ranked among the nation's best seniors this year and both list Indiana among the schools they like.
What they're finding out is what White knew long before Davis replaced Bob Knight as the Hoosiers coach -- that Davis is likable, engaging and he can coach.
"Right now, it's wide open," Ebi said. "Indiana is among the schools I like because I like coach Mike Davis. I love his style and the offense they run."
A few months ago, critics contended Davis was making recruiting more difficult for himself.
During the Hoosiers run to the national championship game, Davis repeatedly said he wanted to coach in the NBA someday. When he signed his new six-year contract this spring, Indiana added a clause that would give Davis an additional $100,000 per year each of the final three years -- if he stayed.
Some believed the NBA talk would dissuade recruits who choose a school because of the coach. But that's not been the case.
"I like the offense because it's spread out, it's an NBA offense," Wafer said. "I can do a lot of work when they're spread out. I can do whatever coach Davis needs me to do."
Whether Davis can close the deal with these top players remains unclear.
But White, for one, knows what he would be getting into. While White was growing up in Alabama, Davis worked personally with him.
Now that White has put himself among the nation's top talents, he's interested in getting back together with his old friend, Davis, and helping him win a national title.
"Over the years, we'd talk when he came home," said White, who arrived at Nike camp wearing an Indiana No. 1 jersey. "I like his style because I'm not down in the post all the time. I can handle the ball a little and do some things. I just like it and I like him."