The Journal Gazette
Thursday, April 02, 2020 1:00 am

Seniors' long IU journey comes to abrupt end

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

On Monday night, the NCAA Division I Council voted to give all spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility after their seasons were canceled weeks earlier in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

However, the same council declined to provide relief to winter sport athletes, including basketball players, many of whom saw their careers end without a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament in their final season of eligibility.

Among the players in that category are Indiana's two seniors, Devonte Green and De'Ron Davis, who, with Monday's announcement from the NCAA, saw their Hoosiers careers officially come to a close. They become the first four-year players at Indiana to not reach the NCAA Tournament since the 1972 class, a bitter pill to swallow for players who helped bridge the gap between former coach Tom Crean – who recruited both of them to Bloomington – and Archie Miller.

“These two guys were here the first day I walked on campus,” Miller said on Senior Day. “They didn't know me and I didn't know them. At the end of the day, for them to be standing here right now ... these two guys have given us stability. They were able to hang in through tough times.”

Both players contributed as freshmen in 2016-17 – Crean's final season at Indiana – with Green shooting 43.6% from 3-point range and showing some precocious playmaking skills, while Davis averaged 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds and formed an intimidating duo in the middle with fellow big man Thomas Bryant.

They seemed to be on the way to being important contributors and perhaps more at Indiana, but their development ended up happening in fits and starts in Miller's three seasons.

Green became one of Indiana's top playmakers, far above the expectations for a player who was barely in the top 200 recruits. 

“Devonte really values his dynamic offensive ability,” Miller said. “I think you've seen the guy throughout ... his career where he's the best player on the floor. I think he envisions himself as that guy every time he takes the floor.

“Sometimes it backfires on him, like it does all guys, but he has a lot of pride and self-confidence. You have to find a way for him to be able to be impactful.”

When the 6-foot-3 guard was playing with confidence, he was one of the most dangerous players in the Big Ten. He nearly dragged Indiana to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018-19 with a late-season surge, including 26 points and 8-for-10 3-point shooting in a Big Ten Tournament loss to Ohio State.

As a senior, Green became an instant-offense player off the bench, scoring a career-high 30 points in a win over No. 17 Florida State and 27 on seven 3-pointers in a must-have victory against No. 21 Iowa. He scored in double figures in six of his last seven games and seemed poised to finish his career on a high note and lead the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament. He departs Indiana 46 points shy of 1,000 for his career.

“These four years have been great,” Green said. “I've been blessed to just even be in the positions that I've been in. I mean, we set a goal in the beginning of the season. We knew what was on the line for us as seniors especially, and we (wanted) to finish it up the best we (could).”

As for Davis, he seemed to be on a star trajectory, averaging 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 61.5% in 15 games as a sophomore before a torn Achilles ended his season. When he returned as a junior, he injured his ankle and never really got back to being a full-time starter.

Instead, he morphed into a veteran leader, contributing with superb passing and a back-to-the-basket arsenal in limited minutes. He helped lead the Hoosiers to a road win over No. 6 Michigan State in February 2019 then tied an Indiana record for most field goals without a miss against Michigan this season, going 9 for 9 and scoring a career-high 18 points.

“I think it's just bittersweet,” Davis said of the end of his IU career. “Had a lot of ups, had a lot of downs, but it's always great to play at such a ... powerful and impactful and influential school.”

“Not a lot of kids can get an offer from a D-I school like that where I come from, so I just embraced it,” Davis added. “It's been a long journey, but it's been fun.”

For Green and Davis, the journey didn't end where they wanted it to, but they left a legacy of perseverance and some special memories along the way.

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