Even in defeat, Davis glad he re-enlisted


ANNAPOLIS -- Mel Davis entered his senior year at Navy with a nagging question on his mind.

Should he or should he not play his final season of basketball?

Davis resolved the question in the affirmative, and his play last night was another example of why his decision was fraught with merit.

The bouncy senior from Chicago had 12 points, five assists, six rebounds, a steal and -- although only 6 feet 1 -- two blocks in Navy's 86-79 loss in overtime to American before 1,056 in Halsey Field House.

That was a clear indication that Davis had made it all the way back. After he started 24 games at point guard as a freshman, his career headed south. His second year was marked by knee surgery and he barely hobbled through the winter.

He didn't play at all as a junior last season, not because of his knee but because he was banned from the team, although not the academy, after committing a team violation that neither he nor coach Pete Herrmann will divulge.

"I made a mistake," Davis said, declining to identify it.

"He was in some trouble," Herrmann said. "But it's over."

Fellow seniors Erik Harris and Eddie Reddick helped Davis overcome his reservations about rejoining the team. Davis knew he would have to pay a price to whip himself into shape after a year of inactivity and he wondered if his knees, already subjected to arthroscopic surgery four times, would tolerate it.

"Mel wasn't sure if he wanted to come back," Harris said. "Eddie and I talked him into it."

"They wanted me to be part of our final season," Davis said. "I had to prove myself all over, but I'm glad the coaching staff gave me the opportunity."

Davis has come in particularly handy since the Middies lost 18.8 points and seven rebounds a game with the season-ending foot injuries to John Haase and Chuck Robinson.

A starter at forward in the four games since, Davis snatched a career-high eight rebounds and scored 12 points against East Carolina, sank 11 points against William & Mary Saturday and delivered a little of everything last night.

It was Davis who dribbled the length of the floor for a layup with two seconds remaining to send the game into overtime at 72-72. But Harris and Reddick had fouled out by then, and Navy (6-17, 2-9 in the Colonial Athletic Association) didn't have the offensive production to stay with American (10-12, 5-6) in overtime.

"Mel has been a spark all year, by effort alone," Herrmann said. "He's always aggressive, always."

The Middies will travel to Richmond tomorrow and entertain George Mason Saturday.

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