Ben Davis doesn't care what you think.
Go ahead, ask your questions. He'll answer if he wants, when he wants.
Or, he may not answer at all. Evasive? Nah, he just thinks it's none of your damn business. Hey, it's nothing personal, there's just some things he's tired of talking about Ä really tired of talking about Ä like people saying he violated team policy at Florida. He left on his own volition, right? So what was the big deal?
He's his own man, like that dog in the beer commercial, the one that has the motto "Be your own dog," or something like that. That's him. Sure, he's made his mistakes, but he's paid his dues. He's tired of living for other people, because he's not "other people." He's Ben.
"When you're young you make bad decisions," Davis explained. "You have a lot of free time just sitting out and everybody's doing this and that, and the team's on the road, so things happen.
"But I'm sure a lot of other things happen to a lot of other people, you just don't know about it. If I was just the average Joe Blow, nobody would've ever knew. If I was just sitting at the end of the bench and wouldn't have been expecting to play, nobody would've ever knew. But I guess when you can play and everything, you draw a lot more attention, so I've learned that now. I know what I can and can't do."
UA coach Lute Olson knew what Davis could do. He also knew that there weren't many things Davis couldn't do. He was informed of Davis' off-court problems, but his on-court presence outweighed those factors, in Olson's mind at least.
"The thing that's been impressive to me has been how focused he is on everything that he needs to do," Olson said of the off-court Davis. "In everything that he has needed to do within the program Ä in terms of classes, representing our program, (etc.) Ä he's been great."
Of the on-court Davis, he said: "He'll be a valuable addition to us on both ends of the court, on both boards. He just goes after everything. He's got that mentality that I think sets the great rebounders apart from the others. He's a great rebounder because he's quick to the ball and he's tenacious."
Said Davis: "I don't go out and search for every rebound. I guess it's just I've got a natural nose for the ball."
That's putting it mildly. Davis has sniffed out rebounds and brought them down at a clip of 6.6 per game this season, on a roster that includes Ray Owes' 8.8 rebounds-per-game average and Joseph Blair's 5.4 per game. In addition, his 12.7 points per game has taken a considerable amount of the scoring load off point guard Damon Stoudamire's shoulders. But it hasn't always been this good.
Davis' route to Tucson was circuitous, to say the least. Arizona recruited Davis out of high school, but his mother, back home in Fort Pierce, Fla., was reluctant about her eldest son going so far from home.
So Davis took off to Kansas, but after only a year, he transferred to Florida. Distractions forced problems off the court, then forced Davis out of Florida altogether, as he then transferred to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in a roundabout game of musical chairs.
If the junior center has any regrets, it was going to play for Roy Williams in the first place. People talk about the problems he had, but to Davis, it's just talk.
"People approach me, but they'll probably approach me the rest of my life," Davis said. "It doesn't bother me at all, though. I felt like I never should've went to Florida, but I was doing other people a favor. Other people were like, 'Just try it, come close to home, do this, do that.' So mid
I tried it everybody else's way, now I just do everything my way.
"I don't even talk to people about the stuff I do now. I just do whatever I want to do, like when I decided to go to Arizona, I went to Arizona. I didn't discuss it with anybody else, because I already did that before, so now all that stuff's done. Whatever I do from now on, I did it. Nobody had anything to do with it."
He contends he is the same person now as he was at Florida and Kansas. There were people he called his friends that went along for the ride, but when they thought Davis was going to derail, they deboarded. Davis, however, got the last laugh Ä he wasn't even close to derailing, he was merely just switching tracks, and in the process he found that the only passenger he could count on was his mom. Meanwhile, he kept picking up steam.
His arrival at Wildcat Station, however, was marred by a bit of red tape: a problem in transfer credits made Davis ineligible to compete in first-semester games. No matter, he kept chugging along, picking up an 18-unit load, which he added to daily practice and workout regimens, doing his best impression of "The Little Engine That Could." Still, being on the team but not on the court was especially difficult.
"It was hard, obviously, especially since you know you can come in and make a positive impact," Davis said. "That's hard. If you were on the team and if you were sitting there and you knew you could go out there and do something positive, it'd be hard for you too, I'm sure. But it's getting better now."
It certainly is. With freshman guard Miles Simon out with a dislocated right finger, Davis' duties should increase. But the team is jelling, and just at the right time, too. After a brief adjustment period, the Wildcats are starting to come into their own.
"At Arizona, I have a little more freedom offensively and defensively to just do the things I can do well," Davis said. "There aren't any limitations, I can just play. I can count on just playing.
"I've just got to keep playing hard and do the things I do well. Hopefully, everything will work out in the end."
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