By James Summerlin
Last year’s men’s basketball team was left with big shoes to fill when five seniors graduated after their TranSouth winning season. The team filled those shoes seemingly easily and has an 8–2 conference record. The Bulldogs are ranked 14th in the nation and are second place in the conference
One of the key players is C.J. Davis, sophomore sports management major. Davis characterizes himself as a scorer and a distributor. Davis rejuvinates his team coming off the bench by leading the team in scoring. He has averaged 15.04 points and 2.74 assists through 23 regular season games.
Davis’s guard play catches attention on the court and his personality attracts others off of it. Davis’s path here has brought him success in his basketball career.
The Nashville-native played his first year of college basketball wearing a No. 13 jersey with the Cubs of Los Angeles City College. Playing in a West Coast area allowed Davis to play a more finesse style of basketball compared to the physical play of the South.
The experience of southern California helped Davis to grow as a player, but he said he wanted to be closer to home. Being so far from his family led to his decision to red-shirt a year and transfer to Union.
As if being far away from his family was not enough, both his parents struggle with their health problems.
“My motivation is my family,” Davis said. “My dad is a diabetic and my mom has cancer. Every morning when I wake up I pray to God that he keeps them on earth as long as possible. When I go to practice and games, I give it my all, like it’s my last.”
His family may not be able to go to every game, but they make the most of their opportunities.
“They try to come to every home game,” Davis said. “We had a game in Trevecca and my whole family was there. It turned into a great game.”
This type of motivation can be important for his team to see. Davis said he expects to go to the final game of the national tournament, where no Union’s men’s basketball team has gone before.
“We want to be known as the best team ever assembled at Union University,” Davis said. “I think we have the tools to win the first national championship. We’re still not there yet. I don’t have to be the star player. I just want to win a national championship.”
The team has yet to go to the final game of the NAIA tournament in Kansas City, Mo., but these expectations do not seem to be outlandish. Davis said he believes playing a full 40 minutes can bring the team to the level it needs to reach.
“Sometimes we get too relaxed, and that’s when other teams play their best ball,” Davis said. “I feel like we are under-rated. The early losses and not finishing games have hurt us. Without that, we could be in the top-five.”
Before winning a national title, Union will have to make a tournament run. During last year’s national tournament, Union was upset in the first round to a lower-seeded Montana Western. Although the red-shirted Davis did not play that year, he said he wants to go back to play for Union’s redemption.
“Losing in the first round does not feel good,” Davis said. “I told Coach (David Niven) ‘We are going to get back here next year.’”
Davis and the rest of the team have a chance to make some noise in the tournament. Davis harkens back to what he was taught all of his life:
“When you can visualize it, you can do it,” Davis said. “That’s what my mom and dad have always taught me.”