By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 27, 2016) — Anthony Davis stepped out to the arc and buried three first-half 3-pointers and also scored a layup, giving him 11 points by halftime when No. 7 Tarleton blew out Emmanuel College, 75-47, to conclude the third annual Thanksgiving Classic at Wisdom Gym Saturday.
After one of his 3-pointers, Davis got a look from just left of the top of the key on the very next possession. But as the interior defense scrambled to stretch and defend the 6-7 forward, Davis calmly lobbed the ball inside to Curtiss Anderson for an easy layup.
It was like pick your poison, and regardless how Emmanuel chose to defend it, the Texans continued to burn them. That’s by design, something Tarleton has had as part of its offense for years. EJ Reed did it the last two seasons. working the paint down low then drawing big defenders outside with his ability to shoot mid-range and 3-point jumpers.
But Reed was a junior and a senior during his time at Tarleton, a two-year Division I transfer who came to Stephenville seasoned and ready to make an immediate impact.
Davis is a redshirt freshman and former Lewisville High School star just beginning his first season of action with the Texans. He sat out last season, spending home games on the bench rooting for his older teammates while desperately wishing he could get on the court and help them.
“It was definitely rough sitting out a whole year. If I didn’t have the other freshmen with me it would have been bad,” said Davis. “We stuck together and we had some seniors and Coach Reisman and the coaches telling us to keep our heads up and telling us our turn would come and to just keep learning. So that’s what we did, but it was rough not getting to play.”
Now that they are on the court, the growth and acclimation process has sped up rapidly for Davis and other members of what Tarleton coaches billed as a prized recruiting class all redshirted together. The other leading star of the class is Josh Hawley, a 6-8 forward and Irving MacArthur product who also plays the stretch-4, forcing defenses to follow him all over the arc.
Both Davis and Hawley are chewing up big minutes considering their youth. Davis has started all five games and is playing 22.4 minutes, while Hawley has regularly been the first guy off the bench for Tarleton and averages 21.2 minute per game.
And both have been productive, Davis finishing with 13 points Saturday to push his season average to 10.2 points, while Hawley scored 12 and is now averaging 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds while filling out the stat sheet with 1.6 steals, 1.4 blocked shots and 1.2 assists per game.
“I’ve always had an inside-outside game, and over the last year I spent a lot of time in the gym working on my game and really developed my 3-point shot,” said Davis when asked about his strengths following the game Saturday night. “Today was just a game where I was letting it fly and it was falling. It felt good.”
Hawley was also good, and at times, electrifying.
Like when he snared a rebound above a crowd and without coming down cocked the ball back and dunked it hard. A bigger dunk was just moments away as Hawley swiped the ball near half court and raced away before finishing by cocking the ball all the way back and tomahawking viciously through the rim to draw the loudest cheers of the night from the Tarleton faithful.
Their head coach sees a high ceiling for both redshirt freshmen.
“Those two don’t even know yet how good they can become. They’re still figuring out how to play in our system and for me, because I’m not an easy guy to play for, especially for young players who haven’t had much seasoning in our program,” said 617 game winner Lonn Reisman, the head coach and athletic director at Tarleton. “I think I have an idea how successful they have the potential to be, them and that class of second-year freshmen as a whole, but they have to continue to come to work every day and to learn our system and to mature as basketball players out on the court.”
The remaining redshirt freshmen still with the Texans – point guard Kealon Clayborne from Cedar Hill and guard/forward Lance Ewell from Brock – have seen limited minutes. Both got on the court at the end of each half against Emmanuel Saturday.
While they have turned heads this off-season, Davis and Hawley have also made their fair share of mistakes, often finding themselves in the crosshairs of their frustrated veteran head coach as they make their way to the bench after a turnover, a blown attempt at a monster dunk that could have just as easily been laid off the glass and through the net or, and this is the worst when one plays at Tarleton, a missed defensive assignment.
“You can see they still make a lot of mistakes, and the goal for them is to cut down on those mistakes every time they are on the court,” said Reisman. “The only way to do that is to come to work and to improve a little bit each day.”
Davis recognizes ways he can improve.
“I’m really stressing getting stronger physically and working on some good post moves going toward the basket to go with my jumper,” Davis said. “Being stronger and being able to finish stronger are the main things.”
Reisman expects to be able to rely each more as time goes on.
“When we signed those guys we believed we found two pillars to build our future around for the next few seasons,” said Reisman. “Right now you see we have guys like Romond Jenkins and Chantz Chambers who are seniors and have been here and even Deshawn Riddick who is a junior but has been in our system for three years, they are the leaders out there, but these freshmen bring some exciting elements to the floor and our whole team will just have to grow along with them.”
Davis is excited to grow alongside Hawley, and equally so for what it could mean to both the present and future of Tarleton basketball.
“Josh is an exciting player,” said Davis. “I’m excited that I get to play four years with him.”