Freshman Davis shows some fire for Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — You probably won’t hear Deyonta Davis boasting about his Michigan State debut on Friday night. That’s because the soft-spoken freshman has let his play do the talking, for the most part.

The 6-foot-10 Davis was solid in two exhibition games, but when the games started counting on Friday at the Breslin Center, he showed glimpses of why he came to Michigan State so highly regarded.

Davis finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in Michigan State’s 82-55 victory over Florida Atlantic. He became just the third Michigan State freshman to record a double-double in his first game, joining Derrick Nix and Matt Steigenga.

“I was just coming out trying to show everybody what I got and that’s what I did,” Davis said.

What he did was prove he can be a difference-maker. He had one sequence where he blocked two straight shots from Florida Atlantic big man C.J. Turman, letting out a yell in the process.

“The way Deyonta played, he showed us some fire,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

It’s something the coaching staff has been pushing for more of from the former Mr. Basketball from Muskegon. He’d been lacking some emotion in practice, and when the Spartans came to the huddle for a timeout on Friday, assistant coach Dwayne Stephens got on his prized big man instead of praising him, saying that effort needs to show up every day.

Izzo is confident as Davis matures and gets stronger, the extra push and motivation will be more consistent.

“That’s part of the learning process,” Izzo said. “I was really pleased with Deyonta. I think he went harder. He played against a physical guy that was pretty good. His quickness to the ball, I thought, was off the charts. He’d miss a shot and he’d be there for the tip-in. His upper-body strength cost him a couple times. A guy like him should be dunking some of those instead of those that he just rolled up and missed.

“All in all the guy did a pretty good job considering he didn’t get to play hardly at all in the last game.”

Things will get tougher for Davis when No. 13 Michigan State faces No. 4 Kansas on Tuesday in the Champions Classic. With Gavin Schilling likely out with a turf toe injury, Davis will be counted on against a deep, talented frontcourt for the Jayhawks.

“We’re going into the fire against a team that’s very veteran,” Izzo said. “Probably as good an inside game and the way they play, this will be a huge test.”

But Davis looks forward to the challenge.

“It’s big,” Davis said. “I’m ready, though.”