Busting Brackets

Wisconsin Basketball: Johnny Davis isn’t your typical 3-star recruit

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 22: The Wisconsin Badgers mascot in the first half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at SAP Center on March 22, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 22: The Wisconsin Badgers mascot in the first half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at SAP Center on March 22, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

Despite what his 3-star rating might suggest, Johnny Davis is a headline recruit for Wisconsin Basketball and is worthy of much more than just a 3-star rating heading into the 2020-21 season.

It’s a good time to be a Wisconsin Basketball fan right now; in fact, I’d say it’s even a great time, heading into the 2020-21 season (whenever that season actually comes upon us).

The Badgers are currently coming off of winning a share of the Big-10 title (regular season, of course) and return essentially every major contributor who helped accomplish that for the next season (minus Brevin Pritzl and, well, Kobe King). Another reason for Badger fans to feel good is in regards to their upcoming 2020 recruiting class; which includes the likes of Ben Carlson, Johnny Davis, Steven Crowl, Lorne Bowman, and Jordan Davis (the twin brother of Johnny).

If you asked fans which name out of that list are they most excited about, you likely would hear Ben Carlson every time. And that’s for good reason; Carlson is great. The 6-foot-9, 210 pound forward fits the modern bill of Wisconsin big men; he’s very skilled, can stretch the floor, and is “sneaky athletic” to some measure (as cliche as that saying is).

He’s also the only incoming 4-star recruit for the Badgers in 2020, but, that’s where today’s topic enters the fold: Carlson shouldn’t be their only 4-star recruit.

Alongside Carlson the Badgers have four other 3-star recruits; and while all of them are great players, in particular, one of them stands out. That player is the 2019-20 Mr. Basketball winner, Johnny Davis, who deserves much more of the spotlight than he’s getting.

The 6-foot-4 combo guard averaged 27.2 points per game for a 20-5 La Crosse Central team that seemed well on their way to a state championship until COVID-19 unfortunately swiped it away from them. That school, La Crosse Central, might ring a similar bell to Wisconsin fans; it is where former Badger, Kobe King, once won a state title and Mr. Basketball award of his own.

Davis was actually a freshman alongside King during said season; he played a much smaller role then, but soon went on to follow his former teammate by growing into one of the best high school basketball players Wisconsin has to offer.

But, despite that fact, he has received little-to-no national attention. Despite having a dominant senior year display for La Crosse Central, Johnny is still only a consensus 3-star recruit. Websites like barttorvik.com only project him as the 4th man off of Wisconsin’s bench in 2020-21.

He could be much more than that right out of the gate for the Badgers; that could be more clear if his skill, as well as his fit with the program, was more accurately gauged on the national scene.

In my opinion, Davis’ misrepresented skill can be dissected by referencing just one game (while still acknowledging the limits of looking at “just one game”) when La Crosse Central hosted the Minnehaha Academy; home of second-ranked 2020 combo guard, Jalen Suggs, and the number two ranked overall player in 2021, Chet Holmgren.

In front of a sold-out crowd of around 3000 people, Davis dropped a strong 42 points against, arguably, one of the best teams in the country. He dropped 42 against an elite rim-protecting enigma in 7-footer Chet Holmgren, and against an elite hustle defender in Jalen Suggs (the star guard, who is headed to Gonzaga, switched onto Johnny once he got rolling).

It wasn’t a cheap 42 points either; Johnny’s 42 was the driving force behind keeping La Crosse Central in the game. His game was leading to winning basketball, despite the 73-64 loss. When the occasions rose to the highest degree, so did his level of play; and as I lead to above, it was during this game that Johnny’s skillset was best represented.

He has the ability that far exceeds 3-star recruit talent; that showed against Minnehaha. For starters, Davis showed he could be an effective x-factor player; a resilient hustler. His athleticism and motor allow him to thrive on defense, even when carrying a heavy load on offense. He’s great at intercepting passes and making full-court plays, plus his strength vertical allows him to be a legitimate rebounding threat. He snagged 10 rebounds against Minnehaha, a few of which were surprisingly over the 7-foot Holmgren.

On offense is where Davis truly shined then, though, in which displayed an elite ability in driving his way to the basket. His burst and quick first step allowed him to get inside with ease no matter who was guarding him. For a betting man, they’d want to bet on two things whenever Davis drove to basket; he was either going to lay it in or draw the foul, no in between (if anything, it’d be a combination of both). He shot 20 free throws and made 14 of them that game.

Not all 42 of his points came off of drives though; at one point Minnehaha defenders made it a point to stop Davis off the dribble. This is when he showed that he’s not just a one-dimensional scorer. He is by no means a great 3-point scorer (yet), but his midrange jumper is a reliable weapon of choice for him. He made trailing Minnehaha defenders pay by nailing every midrange pull-up look he got, even Suggs struggled to keep up.

Davis’ game, as described, could fit perfectly in Wisconsin Basketball theoretically. He is an uber-athletic half-court slasher with a developing pull-up/spot-up game. On the defensive end, he will bring all you can ask for in terms of effort and intensity. Under Wisconsin’s defensive-minded culture and their well-provided spacing on offense, Johnny could thrive.

He has all the individual talent one can ask from a recruit, let alone a 3-star recruit. But Davis is not your typical 3-star recruit, as the title of this article – and this article alone – suggests. He proved it against the highly-ranked Minnehaha Academy this year, and in fact, he proved it this year in general. The game against Minnehaha was just an example, not an anomaly.

Way-too-early Big Ten power rankings. dark. Next

Johnny Davis deserves a higher star rating as a recruit; it unfortunately looks like he won’t get the props he deserves from the recruiting networks. But that’s okay, he’ll instead be Wisconsin Basketball’s underrated secret weapon heading into the 2020-21 season. Davis is certainly ready, as he told the La Crosse Tribune’s Peter Thomson: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m ready for it.” Many might not view him as a headline-worthy recruit, but don’t be surprised if he is a year form now. He evidently has all the skills, and he has the work ethic, to be so