For a redshirt freshman with no collegiate experience, Justin Davis knows he has a tall order awaiting him as he prepares to enter his first season on the Stanford basketball team. His mission: replace the rebounding punch and bruising post defense of Mark Madsen, '00, perhaps the most beloved Cardinal player of all time, who this year will suit up for the L.A. Lakers.
"Mark has such high expectations of me . . . higher than anyone I've ever met," says Davis. "He probably knows me better than any other player because we played together so much."
Davis is referring to the countless hours he spent last season battling Madsen in practices. A friendship developed amid the flying elbows and hip checks, but not without a competitive edge. "Mark would come every day ready to play," says Davis. "Even on days when I had something else on my mind, worrying about a paper or something, it still made me play hard because I didn't want to get outplayed by Mark."
Davis played high school ball at St. Joseph's in Alameda, Calif., transferring there from Berkeley High at his mother's insistence after two of his close friends were murdered. "It wasn't about basketball . . . my first week there, all I could think about was how I wanted to go back to Berkeley High," says Davis. "It wasn't my decision--my parents felt it was the best thing for me."
He acclimated to the new setting quickly and led St. Joe's to the state finals in his junior year, establishing himself as a national Division 1 prospect. His familiarity with the Berkeley campus and coaching staff lead to speculation that he would follow the path of fellow St. Joseph's alumnus and current nba star Jason Kidd and become a Golden Bear.
But life has always been about more than basketball for this personable and mature 19-year-old, who was drawn to the educational offerings at Stanford and the potential for success outside of the sports world. "Sometimes you have to forget your friends, your family . . . and just do what's best for you," says Davis, whose mother attended Cal.
The early returns for Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery are encouraging. Davis held his own against Madsen during those practices last season, and the buzz around the Cardinal program is that Monty may just have the team's next great player ready to step in this year.
Tim Kane, '03