June 25, 2024

RJ Davis Considers UNC Legacy As Regular Season Winds Down

The senior guard is tied for 10th in UNC scoring history.

UNC basketball coach Hubert Davis discusses Tar Heels' win at NC State

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — As he does before every game, RJ Davis turned his phone off before his historic night on Monday against Miami — giving him plenty of messages to view by the time he left the locker room.

Davis had many people send him messages via text and across social media Monday night after he set a Smith Center record with 42 points, and he did his best to respond to all of them. One friend sent him an old picture of himself from elementary school, when he rocked a low-cut fade and a pair of corrective goggles as a third grader, to show him how far he’s come.

Even with the bevy of congratulatory praise and his teammates’ complimentary words, Davis’ feat didn’t quite settle in with him the night of the game. He said it took about two days to truly realize what he had accomplished. But Monday’s spectacle was the latest addition to his legacy at North Carolina.

Davis’ 42 points on Monday tied him for 10th on UNC’s all-time scoring list with Brad Daugherty. The only names ahead of him are Tyler Hansbrough, Phil Ford, Armando Bacot, Sam Perkins, Lennie Rosenbluth, Al Wood, Charlie Scott, Larry Miller and Antwan Jamison.

“To me, that’s insane,” Davis said. “I’m speechless from that.”

Upon arriving at North Carolina during the COVID-mired 2020-21 season, and even while Roy Williams recruited him in high school, Davis never imagined that he’d wind up as one of the program’s top 10 scorers. But before his fourth season began, he started to put more thought into how he’d want to be remembered.

“One thing I did think about going into my senior year was what type of legacy I want to leave behind, how I wanted my senior to go,” Davis said. “I think I really took control of that in terms of just my mental (approach) and just being overly confident and focused in every game in every practice to prepare myself for these moments, prepare myself for these games in order for me to have a great senior year.”

Davis is tied for sixth in the nation at 21.7 points per game. He’s scored 25 or more points in nine games and 30 or more in three. Davis is also shooting a career-high 41.1% from 3-point range. He’s the first Tar Heel since Tyler Hansbrough in the 2008-09 season to average more than 20 points per game in a season.

The senior’s scoring average has risen every season of his career.

Hubert Davis said RJ Davis’ year-by-year growth isn’t a surprise, citing his ability to become more comfortable within the team and as an individual player.

“This is the way college basketball used to be,” Hubert Davis said. “Every year, you got better. Every year, you got stronger. Every year, you got more comfortable. Every year, you got more confident as a leader.

“It’s not a surprise because I knew what type of player and person (RJ) is… I feel like this year is the first year that he is truly being celebrated for the type of player he is and has become.”

Davis, the team’s all-time free throw percentage leader (86.3%), has a shot to etch his name even further in UNC lore.

He’s the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year and will likely make either first-team or second-team All-American. Both accomplishments would get his jersey honored in the Smith Center, and he’d be the first Tar Heel to get that honor since Joel Berry.

Davis’ season has garnered national attention and respect around the country. UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said on Tuesday that Davis could be primed for a Kemba Walker-esque NCAA Tournament run with his ability to quickly find a scoring rhythm.

“I see a kid like that, and I see a guy that can just go on a heater and just carry a team,” Cronin said.

Davis has the option to return for a fifth season at North Carolina as a member of the last group of players who can take a COVID year, but UNC’s next two games are at home and could potentially be the final two games Davis will play in Chapel Hill. He said he isn’t thinking about these next two games as the last time he plays in the Smith Center with a Tar Heel uniform on, though the second of those two games will be Senior Night.

Still, as his journey continues, Davis has an appreciation for how his story’s been written so far.

“I love my journey of how I started and how it’s gone from freshman year until now,” Davis said. “I’ve grown, not just as a player, but as a person here. I’m more mature, I’m wise, I see things. This place has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and showcase my personality more.

“I’m just proud of my career, and I’ll never compare my career or myself to anyone else, because everyone’s story and everyone’s journey is different.”

 

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