By Ken Cross
The #Pac12AfterDark hash tag gets hotter and hotter when you have elite drama in the waning minutes in a game like last night’s 77-76 Stanford Cardinal win over USC in Maples Pavilion.
Jordan McLaughlin gave USC a 76-74 lead on a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining. The inbounds pass went immediately to freshman Daejon Davis on the left side of the floor. He took one dribble and heaved the basketball from just beyond half court. His shot hit nothing but net as the Cardinal came from 15 down with 10 minutes to play to pass USC in dramatic fashion.
— Max Meyer (@TheMaxMeyer) January 8, 2018
“The fact that it went in is special, and it’s an unbelievable moment,” commented Cardinal coach Jerod Haase, “Obviously, some luck involved with it going in. I’m more excited and proud about the comeback. Being down, I believe, 15 and much of that time having four freshmen in there leading the charge.”
Davis, a 6-3 guard from Seattle, Washington, helped highlight a Top 15 recruiting class for the Cardinal in 2017. As freshmen, he, Kenzie Okpala, Isaac Wright, Oscar Da Silva, and Kodye Pugh have settled in beside of seniors Michael Humphrey, Reid Travis, and Dorian Pickens to give the Cardinal more stability and depth as the team has finally gotten healthy.
“I think the big thing is all of those guys are having the belief that we can get it done,” said Haase, “As a coach, that’s special. We have a long, long way to go in terms of our development as a team.”
The Cardinal came in fresh off a 107-99 double overtime win over UCLA on Thursday evening. Davis had 22 points and seven assists as he went 8-of-11 from the field in that win as it complemented Pickens’ game high of 26 points.
Davis had some tough stretches in the game as he finished with nine points and six assists, but with five turnovers in 37 minutes. All that was generally awash for the moment after his heroics.
“Daejon, it’s pretty neat – during the alma mater, he was bragging that he was practicing that shot with Isaac after the shoot-around, and as I talked to Isaac, he said he made a bunch of those shots and Daejon didn’t make any – so I guess he was due for one.”
Davis knew exactly where he was on the floor when he caught the ball. to his credit, the moment obviously wasn’t too big for him.
“I knew for sure, I didn’t know how far up I was going to be after shooting it,” Davis explained, “I knew I was on the left side and I know that it’s a lot easier when I flip it. I know my ball usually curves around this way so give it a chance.”
Da Silva, who hails from Munich, Germany, has started to play more minutes and become even more confident. Haase noted that his international experience as a member of Germany’s U19 team and other has given him plenty of basketball savvy in knowing his role at particular times in the game.
“He has a tremendous amount of savvy,” noted Haase, “With that, he tends to know when to try to block a shot, when to stay down–especially in tight situations. I believe he’s been there before and it’s paying dividends.”
The same can be said for Okpala, who came in from the fertile LA high school basketball society at Esperanza High School. He has been an aggressive figure on the boards and played well within himself Sunday evening with four fouls.
“I love the fact that he has the confidence to shoot that basketball,” summarized Haase, “We talk about building a program, that’s a lot better problem to have than guys that shy away from the moments. I think we’re developing a group of players, especially that freshman class that is going to embrace those moments moving forward and not being afraid to fail.”