‘Where’s the steak?’
That’s what Jordan Davis’ siblings would ask at dinner when they were treated to the familiar nightly offerings that were limited to chicken or fish. Beef and other foods that the 6-foot-2 guard deemed unhealthy and cut out of his diet had been barred from the Davis household meaning that his brothers and sisters were to live by the same diet that the 2019 NBA draft hopeful adopted during his sophomore season at the University of Northern Colorado.
Davis, who took part in the Nuggets’ first pre-draft workout of the offseason Tuesday, was having problems sleeping and began researching what could be keeping him from getting some quality shut-eye. He found that his diet could be the root of the issue so Davis soon cut out some of his vices, like fast food from McDonald’s and red meat. He switched to a diet centered around chicken, fish, potatoes, rice and beans that Davis, and when he’s home, his family, still live by.
“If one of you can’t eat it you all can’t eat it,” Davis remembers his mother saying to the rest of the dinner table.
Davis’ diet is one of the components that helped mold the 185-pound chiseled lead ball handler out of North Las Vegas, Nevada into one of the most potent scoring guards in Division 1 college basketball. Last season, the 21-year-old senior averaged 23.5 points for Northern Colorado, good for 10th on the NCAA Division 1 leaderboard — just a point per game less than presumptive No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant — and led the Bears to a 21-11 record in the Big Sky conference. He also ranked first in the country in isolation scoring, making it two seasons in a row that Bear’s head coach Jeff Linder has helped produce the nation’s leader in that category, per Synergy. Andre Spight, who played for the Nuggets’ Summer League team in 2018, took home the honors in 2017-18.
Davis is a natural and explosive scoring guard and shot 36% from three on 4.7 triples per contest last season, but a well-rounded game is what stands out when looking back on his four-year college career. He doesn’t boast plus size at the point guard position but has a long 6-foot-9 wingspan that he uses to his advantage on the glass. Davis averaged 4.7 rebounds per game last season — a high mark for a floor general — and his nose for the ball reminds his coach of a former NBA MVP who the lighting quick guard says he models his game after.
“There’s only one Russell Westbrook in the world,” Linder, who coached Davis for three seasons, told BSN Denver. “But JD, he’s a miniature version of Russell Westbrook.”
But before he can go mano-a-mano with Westbrook, or Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, and John Wall, the All-Stars he grew up watching film of, or emulate his favorite player Allen Iverson’s patented left to right crossover on the NBA hardwood, Davis will first have to make the league. The Nuggets don’t currently own a draft pick in either the first or second round but tend to fill out portions of their Summer League roster with local flavor and Davis could be a prime candidate to handle some of Denver’s ball-handling duties at July’s Las Vegas showcase. He’s currently projected to go undrafted on June 20 but strong showings at Summer League have served as launchings pads for unheralded prospects before.
Davis will snatch up whatever opportunities come his way, even if he has to travel halfway across the globe.
The US-born Davis journeyed more than 7,000 miles to play for Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that sits on the northern tip of Iran, at the FIBA U20 European Championships the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons thanks to a FIBA rule allows countries to suit up one naturalized dual-citizen per competition. Countries with flexible naturalization policies have added American pros to their senior teams in the past and when approached in 2017 by Azerbaijani officials about the chance to play for their country in front of European scouts, Davis jumped at the opportunity.
“I’m from North Las Vegas and if you went there, if I took you to the neighborhoods I grew up in as a kid and where I went to high school, you wouldn’t take any opportunities for granted,” said Davis who has a two-year-old daughter Jordynn who lives in Las Vegas and serves as his daily source of inspiration. “For me, it’s just being able to be here and getting my foot in the door of my dream, because I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a kid.”
The dream and vision of donning an NBA jersey is one Davis has had planted firmly in his mind for as long as he can remember. In the eighth grade, he wanted to dunk, so his father implemented a training regiment that involved 1,000 calf raises a day. He did extra when in the shower. Five hundred push-ups every day helped build strength and morning runs at the crack of dawn in the scorching Las Vegas heat improved Davis’ conditioning.
“When I tell people that they’re like, ‘Your dad was extreme,'” Davis said. “But he knew I wanted it and he knew what it was going to take.”
Those early mornings continued when Davis arrived at Northern Colorado. To fulfill the requirements of his Sports and Exercise Science degree he worked an internship as a manager for the women’s basketball team. A 3.5 GPA student, Davis would arrive at the gym at 6:30 a.m. with a towel tucked into the back of his shorts ready to wipe sweat off the court, play dummy defense or rebound during a shooting drill.
“As good of a player as he is. He’s an even better person,” Linder said. “I’m going to miss the daily interactions, the daily talks that I had with him. Those are the things that will last a lifetime.”
Davis got quality feedback from Denver’s coaching staff Tuesday. The Nuggets said he needs to work on his shot preparation and making sure that he’s set before rising into his shooting motion so his release is quicker and more consistent. On catch-and-shoot jumpers, Davis sometimes has a bit of a dip in his shot. It’s an aspect of his jumper that he’s been working to refine all summer.
Davis has proved before that when he needs to make alterations, to his life or his game, he’ll follow through. A change in Davis’ diet led to a healthier sleep schedule and tweaks to his shooting form during the summer following his junior season helped increase his free-throw percentage from 64% to over 80% last year. A sub-30% shooter from distance for most of his college career, Davis raised his 3-point percentage to 36% during his senior season
Now, he has to prove himself all over again by convincing teams that his game can translate to the next level.
“Teams know I can score coming from Northern Colorado, so they want to see me as a true point guard, making plays, making the right reads or just being able to pick stuff out of the film. So I’ve just really been watching a lot of film, tightening up my IQ and being able to shot consistently from the NBA line.”
“I’m just coming here to hopefully get a spot, and I’m not going to take my opportunity for granted.”