The best dunkers rarely forget their first.
They’re special but typically underwhelming, often grazing the rim as the closest defender looks on from about halfcourt.
Eastern Washington spring-heeled guard Jacob Davison – one of the Big Sky Conference’s most electrifying players – had a much different result.
Davison wasn’t even a varsity player at Cantwell-Sacred High School in Southern California when he mustered the courage to throw down his first in-game slam.
The sophomore found ample room to elevate in a 2014 junior varsity game before electing to take off, easily jamming on an ambitious defender in the process.
It was an out-of-body experience for Davison, who will take his 18 points-per-game average to McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday to face second-ranked Gonzaga.
“I don’t know what happened,” Davison said. “(The defender) was there and he got dunked on.”
Davison has had several more victims since as the 6-foot-4, 175-pound EWU redshirt junior has emerged as one of the region’s best above-the-rim talents.
In a recent home win against NCAA Tournament regular Belmont, Davison exhibited his crowd-pleasing vertical leap when he successfully put down a 360-degree dunk moments after a whistle.
Third-year EWU head coach Shantay Legans has grown to expect the high-flying act.
It’s an appetizer for an Eagles squad that leads NCAA Division I in scoring (90.7 ppg), ranks second in assists (19.9 apg) and is seventh in 3-pointers (10.3 per game).
“He doesn’t catch your eye right away,” Legans said of Davison. “A lot of guys see him and don’t think he can get up like that, then all of a sudden he gets a tip dunk.
“But he also has an all-around game to go with it. A lot of those big dunkers don’t have game like him.”
Davison, an All-Big Sky selection last season, does the overwhelming majority of his scoring when he doesn’t touch the rim.
The Long Beach, California, native is shooting 48.3 % from the field (69 for 153) and getting his buckets in the form of drives, jumpers and 3-pointers. He’s also averaging four assists, three assists and two steals.
If any team outside Cheney can attest to Davison’s versatility, it’s Northern Arizona and North Dakota.
There were dunks, but none worthy of greatest hits.
His first college dunk would make the cut, though.
Before a March 2018 College Basketball Invitational game at Utah Valley, Legans ribbed Davison for having so many dunks in practice but none in a game.
That changed in the Eagles’ postseason game when the freshman attacked the rim on a curl play and went over a Utah Valley 7-footer, Legans said.
“And he’s been dunking in games ever since,” Legans said.
His two-handed baseline dunk in traffic in a key stretch against Montana State last season is among his favorites.
“There was also a dunk where I took off against Portland State and just keep getting up,” Davison. “That dunk really caught me off guard.”
Genetics helped his vertical leap. His father, Brad Davison, consistently dunked in high school before briefly playing at a small college.
Repetition also helped. Davison has been attempting a variety of jams since he was in middle school on an 8-foot hoop.
Davison also worked out certain muscle groups to aid his explosion and used Jumpsoles, a plyometric training device that attaches to shoes.
It’s paid off for Davison, who once earned MVP at Michael Jordan’s Flight School Showcase in Los Angeles.
His best dunks were completed in a leisurely basketball setting, he said, including a between-both-legs dunk and a behind-the-back dunk.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Legans said. “It’s starting to show a lot more as he’s getting finishes and doing things on the inside.”
Not all of his dunk attempts have been gems, though.
Davison winces when thinking back to a 2018 nonconference home game against the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He took off in transition and was subsequently rim-checked, sling-shotting the ball toward the Reese Court ceiling.
“Man, that was embarrassing,” Davison said.
A severe ankle injury cut Davison’s sophomore campaign short last season, and he missed a Big Sky Conference Tournament stretch that saw the Eagles reach their second consecutive title game.
“It was really hard to watch and sit,” Davison said. “But I knew that it was God’s plan for me, and He knows what’s best for me, so I just rode the wave.”
The Eagles returned the bulk of their talent, and Big Sky coaches tabbed EWU as the favorite in their preseason poll.
EWU is off to one of its best starts in the 2010s, wrapping up its nonconference slate against neighboring NCAA power Gonzaga, which it hasn’t faced since 2011.
“We’re going to put our best foot forward and get ready for Big Sky play,” Legans said. “You want to play against the best, and we’ll be facing the No. 2 team in the country, so that’s all we can ask for.”
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