CHICAGO — Wisconsin sophomore guard Johnny Davis is a simple kid with a simple game.
Very good defender. Solid striker. A plunge to the ground. A deadly shot from medium distance. Nothing too flashy.
So when teams asked him an offbeat question about his personal life during interviews at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Davis didn’t back down.
“I was asked what my ‘wild’ moment would be,” Davis said. “It’s realizing that I’m in the NBA. And play against anyone who has been there. I just made sure I went through the interviews with my head on straight.”
The 20-year-old Davis hosted his pro day on Saturday, though he didn’t shoot or drill, as part of agent Jeff Schwartz’s Excel Management stable. The Knicks attended, who also interviewed him on Thursday. Davis is in range for the Knicks with the No. 11 overall draft pick, but he has interviews with teams before them, including the Spurs at No. 9.
Davis said it was an honor to meet coach Tom Thibodeau, who can’t walk the streets of Chicago without being stopped as a former Bulls star coach.
“It went really well,” Davis said. “It was nice to see a familiar face [in Thibodeau] and someone who has been a part of the game for a while. It was amazing talking to him after seeing what he has done with many teams. He is a very recognized coach in the league.
“I heard from people who like guys like [me]Davis added. “So hopefully I can fit in with them and they’ll be into me enough to recruit me.”
Davis, whose father is former NBA player Mark Davis, also met with the Spurs. But he didn’t see coach Gregg Popovich, who is in Serbia looking for the EuroLeague Final Four.
The Spurs might be the biggest threat to Davis falling to the Knicks, though some mock drafts have Davis going to the Pelicans at No. 8 as the perfect backup for CJ McCollum.
“Obviously playing with Coach Popovich, the most famous coach in NBA history, is something I would really like to see happen,” Davis said.
While defense is a calling card, Davis feels he can also be an explosive NBA scorer, and tries to emulate Devin Booker on the offensive end. For now, he is an excellent mid-range scorer who needs to improve his range.
“Yes, Devin Booker. I don’t know him personally,” Davis said. “His strength and his ability to score in a variety of ways. I don’t know much about him as a defender, but he competes.”
No one saw Davis as a possible lottery pick in his freshman year, when he played a small role on a senior-dominated team and averaged 7 points per game in 2020-21.
But this last season as a sophomore, he became “Mr. Badger” – The standout guy and caused his efficiency stats to drop due to the attention being paid to him by defenses. Davis finished averaging 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. But he shot 42.7 percent overall, 30.3 from 3-point range.
“It definitely doesn’t represent me,” Davis said. “I could have shot better from the free throw line, especially from 3. I thought later in the season I took a lot more contested shots. Later in the season, the teams focused more on me because of the success I had earlier in the season.
There’s an intangible spirit in Davis, who helped Wisconsin win a piece of the Big Ten regular-season title, that analysis can’t capture.
“For Johnny, it all starts with his competitiveness, his killer instinct and his will to win,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said recently. “That’s at the top of his motivating factors. But he also had a full offseason in the weight room, plus a couple of weeks with Team USA. [Under-19 roster]. That helped him add strength and explosiveness.”
Davis is a twin, and his twin brother, Jordan, played with him in Wisconsin. His father, a former small forward, played professionally for 13 seasons after being drafted by the Cavaliers in the 1985 NBA Draft.
“[He told me] just make sure you’re having fun, not putting too much pressure on me and thinking too high,” Davis said. “Just stay in the moment.”
Asked what he would be thinking about on June 23, draft night in Brooklyn, when his name was called, Davis said, “I’ll be thinking about my parents. They were able to put me in this position. I was raised to be the man I am today. Everything I do is for them.”