High school basketball: Young’s Dalen Davis raises his stock

Dalen Davis is feeling good.

Physically, mentally and productively, the junior from Young is playing the best basketball of his career.

After arriving on the scene as a freshman and playing an important role for one of the best teams in the state, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the 5-11 point guard over the past two seasons. But he’s put it all on display in recent weeks, including last month during the second NCAA live evaluation period of the spring.

“I feel different now than I did during the season or even from the first EYBL session [in early April],” Davis said. “I was dealing with a back injury the first weekend. I tried to play through it.”

Then with college coaches watching, he shined throughout the second NCAA live weekend in Indianapolis.

He scored 19 points and added four assists in 20 minutes in a Meanstreets win over Bradley Beal Elite in Nike’s EYBL second session.

Davis then went toe-to-toe with Joliet native and Michigan State commit Jeremy Fears Jr., a top 30 player nationally who plays at La Lumiere in Indiana. In the head-to-head matchup he scored 17 points, connecting on 3-of-3 from the three-point line and dished out six assists.

The offensive efficiency and the pace Davis played at with the ball in his hands, along with the confidence and poise, stood out. He displayed a penchant for scoring while playing the role of distributor.

He connected on off-the-dribble and off-the-catch threes and dropped in pull-up jumpers. He displayed enough burst to get by defenders and finish at the rim. He set up teammates and showed to be a pick-and-roll threat.

Davis is evolving and self-observant. A known score-first point guard with some compact strength, there has been more than just a hint of playmaker in him this spring. And Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, who coaches with the Meanstreets program, has seen the shift in his star point guard.

“He’s really assumed the position of being a point guard who can score rather than being a scorer who is playing point guard,” Slaughter said.

Despite a solid junior season, Davis knows there have been ups and downs in his career that he’s dealt with. As a hot shot prospect early in his career with Division I offers, a lot of eyes were on Davis –– and his inconsistency and missed games.

There were Covid-shortened seasons and disruptions. And there have been injuries and times where he admits he’s been distracted from becoming the player he can be.

Davis said he just had a feeling, throughout his sophomore and junior seasons, that something was always holding him back.

Young’s Dalen Davis (3) shoots and hits clutch free throws in the fourth quarter against Barrington.

Young’s Dalen Davis (3) shoots and hits clutch free throws in the fourth quarter against Barrington.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

“During the season I had off-the-court stuff that distanced myself from the game,” Davis readily admits. “My mind wasn’t always there in dealing with off-the-court stuff. One day I felt like I’m ready to compete, ready to go, give it my all. Some days I felt the love for basketball varied.”

But both watching Davis and talking with him has shown he’s rejuvenated and back to being focused and driven.

“Definitely feel like that weekend in Indy brought back my competitive spirit,” Davis said of the EYBL competition he faced. “Playing those top guards and seeing those names and commits, that definitely fueled my fire.”

More importantly, Davis feels invigorated and excited about the game.

“I love the game more now and my competitive spirit is back and I’m definitely ready to take that next step,” Davis said. “And that love and competitive spirit is here to stay. Just being healthy and loving the game again is great.”

Slaughter is quick to point out, though, how influential Davis was during Young’s run to a state runner-up finish in Class 4A this past March.

“Dalen went through some things during Christmas time, but our success, both in the Public League playoffs and state tournament, had a lot to do with how he played in those big games,” said Slaughter. “The way he’s playing now? He’s been outstanding. Staying healthy and on the floor is really the key for him.”

Now Davis is already looking forward to reaching goals he’s set for himself and his team. While he says he is seeking some more national attention and wants to generate more offers and interest, he also wants to be a leader for the Dolphins going forward.

“I definitely believe I am improving my stock as a point guard and as a leader with Whitney Young,” Davis said. “I have grown as a leader. I want to build a bond with my Whitney Young team this summer and get out and compete with them. I just know if I play with that competitive spirit the game will flow to me.”

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