Waiting two years for a shot at Division I basketball was something Davon Usher had accepted over time. But the six extra weeks the former Digital Harbor star spent hoping for that elusive DI offer seemed nearly interminable.
Usher, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound wing, had a solid junior college career at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla., averaging around nine points and seven rebounds for the Eagles as a sophomore. North Carolina Central, Western Illinois, San Jose State, Quinnipiac and North Carolina A&T were among the many DI programs interested in the former Rams standout, but reluctant to offer a scholarship.
“[Some] of the schools talking to me, they didn’t really have confidence I was going to finish up my degree, which I did,” Usher said. “I was just thinking at times, feeling as though I’m not good enough for them. [I thought], ‘Why are they turning me down?’”
The one school that wouldn’t turn Usher down was Mississippi Valley State, a SWAC school located in rural Itta Bena, Miss. The Delta Devils coaching staff made clear to Usher that they wanted him, and when he finished his six weeks of summer school and earned his associate’s degree, the Baltimore native rewarded them with his commitment.
“The other [programs], they didn’t really believe that I was going to finish it up. They kept beating around the bush,” said Usher, who will sign with MVSU this week. “Mississippi Valley State had faith in me. … I felt comfortable with them. [Recruiting] opened up my eyes on who really wanted me and who really had confidence in me. Mississippi Valley is … basically just the right fit at the right time.”
Usher has been looking for the right fit ever since he graduated from Digital Harbor in 2010. A Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection who averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals as a senior, Usher originally signed with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. When he missed NCAA qualifying standards, Usher headed to Polk State to play in the highly competitive Florida JUCO ranks. Playing away from the spotlight was a major change for him.
“After high school, a lot of people forgot about what I can do,” Usher said. “[If you go to] prep school or junior college, you just never give up on what you’re trying to do and keep striving. Getting it done is all that matters.”
Through a freshman season in which he was hampered by injuries but still averaged nearly seven points and four rebounds, Usher followed his father’s advice to “stay patient” and “focus on the bigger picture.” Usher plugged away in the classroom and made the most of his on-court opportunities.
“Florida junior college is one of the top junior college [areas] in the country,” Usher said. “People might think junior college is easy, but it’s really not. You’re going up against three, four, five Division I players every night. Sometimes you might go up against guys that are 23, 22. It was good competition to prepare you for the Division I level. Junior college in Florida is really tough. It wasn’t easy at all. That helped me get prepared for the DI level.”
At Mississippi Valley State, Usher will join the reigning SWAC tournament champions. The Delta Devils, led by former Lansdowne guard Brent Arrington, will be gunning for their second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
“[Arrington is] a point guard, scorer, and I’m kind of a slasher and a scorer myself,” Usher said. “We both have that Baltimore toughness. He really did big things and he helped them out his last year as a freshman. I need to learn more from him. He’s been through it and already knows. We just need to help each other.”
Usher said he’s excited to finally start his DI career. He’ll do so playing for a first-year head coach in Chico Potts, who was elevated from his assistant’s post after Sean Woods landed the Morehead State job. Usher can’t wait to suit up for the Delta Devils.
“Everything’s official, so I feel blessed, I feel good,” he said. “I’m finally happy that I can fulfill my dream and go Division I. It’s been such a long journey coming out of high school. I’ve been taking a different route going to junior college. With basketball, everyone forgot about me going to junior college. Now it’s just time for me to come in and fulfill my dream.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun