Upon learning that he had been selected Ohio’s Mr. Basketball for 2020, Walnut Ridge senior VonCameron Davis ecstatically began thanking the coaches, personal trainers, teammates and opponents who helped him along the journey.
But right at the top of the list were his parents, Von and Dawanna Davis. Their blue-collar work ethic helped shape VonCameron into the humble person and relentless player he became.
“My Mom is a bus driver for Columbus City Schools and my Dad is a truck driver, so they get up at about 4 o’clock in the morning,” Davis said. “They’ve been great role models for me. Mom always wakes me up and I usually go to work out before school. I picked up that mindset from them.”
Scots second-year coach Chuck Jefferson said Davis’ claim is not embelished.
“He’s the first person at school almost every morning, usually about 5 a.m.,” Jefferson said. “Nothing has been given to VonCameron. He has earned everything he’s got with good old-fashioned hard work.”
Something of a renaissance man, Davis credits much of his cardiovascular strength and endurance to being a competitive swimmer. He was a lifeguard at a pool during summers.
Davis, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior forward who has signed to play at Kent State, had a senior season — and a career — to remember.
Practically unstoppable in the low and high post, Davis averaged 26.2 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 52.7 percent from the field for a 22-5 team that won its first City League title since 1971 and knocked off top-seeded Gahanna for a district championship before being ousted in regional play.
The multi-skilled left-hander finished his career with 2,201 points and 819 rebounds. He made first-team All-City four times. The only other player to do that was two-time Mr. Basketball winner Jared Sullinger of Northland.
Other finalists for the award were Christopher “CJ” Anthony of Harvest Prep, Luke Powell of Barnesville, Josiah Fulcher of Lima Senior, Grant Whisman of Middletown Madison, Zach Rasile of McDonald, Malaki Branham of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and John Hugley or Lyndhurst Brush.
Ironically, Anthony is a neighbor and close friend of Davis. They rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, as the all-time leading scorers in central Ohio.
“I really didn’t know much about Mr. Basketball until a few years ago, but Jared and Trey (Burke) talked to me about how important it was and I made it a goal coming into the season,” Davis said. “I realize that a lot of it has to do with team success, and took care of that this year, so I’m thankful to my teammates.”
Jefferson said he first saw Davis as a freshman while scouting for Pickerington North coach Jason Bates, and immediately thought he possessed the tools to be special.
“Those first two years, he played mostly with his back to the basket and I made it my goal to help transform him into a more complete player,” Jefferson said. “He can do it all, from ball-handling to shooting, but the key thing is he’s not just a scorer. He was double- and triple-teamed a lot of games and he still found ways to make his teammates succeed. I compare him to Tim Duncan in that he leads by example.
“I can’t say enough good things about VonCameron. He’s a workhorse and real quit, humble kid who’s going to be very successful in the Mid-American Conference with Kent State. I think he can play right away there.”
Although many friends urged him to consider a more prominent program, Davis felt Kent State was a great fit and committed last summer. Golden Flashes assistant coach Julian Sullinger (an older brother of Jared) convinced him that Kent State (20-12) is a program on the rise.
Davis averaged 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds as a freshman, 22.8 points and 6.9 rebounds as a sophomore and 27.5 points and 11.6 rebounds in 2018-19.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Davis said. “Although things didn’t turn out quite the way we wanted (losing to Hilliard Bradley in a regional semifinal), we made some history this year and community and alums really got behind us. That will be my greatest memory.”