By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Deyonta Davis has always had the physical ability to dominate a basketball game.

He pounds home devastating dunks against stunned opponents and makes it look easy. He swats opponents’ shots out of the air like annoying insects. He’s nearly impossible to stop when he launches his towering frame to grab a rebound.

Muskegon All-Stater Deyonta Davis/Photo Joe Lane
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Muskegon All-Stater Deyonta Davis/Photo Joe Lane

But now Davis has the attitude to go with the physical skills, and there’s no telling what he’ll accomplish before his prep career is over.

Davis, Muskegon’s 6-9 senior center, was in a unique position last season as a junior.

He was clearly one of the best post players in the state, averaging  15 points, 13.2 rebounds and nearly seven blocks per game. He earned All-State honors and played a pivotal role in Muskegon’s run to a 28-0 record and the Class A state title.

But he also had a lot of great teammates surrounding him – particularly Deshaun Thrower – who won the Mr. Basketball award as the top senior basketball player in the state.

With the spotlight on Thrower, David could quietly do his thing. And that suited him just fine, because he’s basically a quiet kid who doesn’t seek attention.

But this season has been different. The spotlight automatically shifted to Davis as the top returnee on a Big Red squad that’s again ranked among the best in the state.

Expectations were high. Davis had already committed to playing college basketball at Michigan State University, and was ranked among the nation’s top 20 prep players in a preseason list published by ESPN.

But Davis may not have been ready for the spotlight right away.

The Big Reds got off to a 3-0 start this season, then ran into a good East Kentwood team in the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame tournament over the holiday break.

Muskegon led by 20 points, but got lethargic in the second half, allowing the Falcons to come back and stun them by one point.

The loss broke a 31-game winning streak for the Big Reds, and also woke Davis up.

“He took the blame for that loss and apologized,”  Muskegon Coach Keith Guy said about Davis. “He said he was going to do everything he could to do make sure it never happens again.

“He didn’t feel like he played as hard as he could. It wasn’t all his fault. We didn’t go to him in the fourth quarter. But he didn’t demand the ball in the fourth quarter, either.”

Davis said there was a simple explanation for his attitude after the loss.

Muskegon's Deyonta Davis flies in for the dunk. Photo/Jason Goorman
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Davis flies in for a dunk. Photo/Jason Goorman

“East Kentwood is a team we shouldn’t lose to,” said Davis, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat. “I had set a team goal that we weren’t going to lose.”

Obviously there was nothing Davis could do to erase the blemish on the Big Reds’ record. But he’s been doing plenty since then.

He’s been playing with renewed intensity and putting up monster numbers in recent weeks, helping Muskegon reel off six wins in a row.

Davis had 27 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks against Chicago Curie Metro, a traditional Illinois state power.

He collected 15 points, 22 rebounds and 13 blocks against Romulus, which came into the contest ranked 10th in the state in Class A.

Davis notched 26 points, 18 rebounds and eight blocks against Mona Shores, then had 29 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks against Reeths-Puffer.

Perhaps his most emphatic performance came a week ago, when the Big Reds hosted Grand Rapids Christian. They were whistled for three technical fouls in the fourth quarter and didn’t take it well.

Davis did not draw any of the technicals, but was clearly upset, and responded to the final call with a powerful breakaway dunk that brought the home crowd to its feet and helped Muskegon seal the victory.

He finished the game with 20 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks.

“He took it personally, all the technicals,” Guy said about Davis.

Davis is currently averaging 20 points, 16.9 rebounds and 7.5 blocks per game. His recent performance has nailed down his role as a team leader.

“(Leadership) was unfamiliar territory for him,” Guy said. “In the past he was playing with some older guys who were the leaders. But they laid the groundwork for him. He learned from them so he could pick up where they left off.

“It’s really good to see him coming out of his shell. He’s leading more and becoming more vocal. The best part is that he’s holding himself accountable.”

Davis admits it was comforting to compete with teammates like Thrower for two seasons. But he insists he doesn’t feel any more pressure this year, despite the added expectations.

He said he’s still surrounded by a lot of talented teammates, including fellow senior Joeviair Kennedy, who has also been carrying much of the scoring load for the Big Reds.

“Now the two of us have the spotlight on us, and I just play my role and he plays his,” Davis said. “When I go into a game I’m just focusing on winning. I’m just taking it on myself.”

Some kids who commit early to college may find themselves looking ahead, instead of focusing on the rest of their high school careers. But Davis is clearly not one of them.

He desperately wants to win another state title at Muskegon before taking his talent to East Lansing.

“It’s real important,” Davis said. “I’m someone who is going to stay focused on the high school season. When college comes I’ll think about college.”

As amazingly as Davis has performed in recent weeks, Guy thinks area fans may see even more before the season is over.

“It’s hard to ask for much more out of him, but to be quite honest about it, he could get even better,” Guy said. “People haven’t had a chance to see him knock down his jump shot. He can hit 3’s. He hasn’t had to do it, but he can.”