Setting the tone
Athletics is a venue where strong bonds and lifelong memories are formed, and a special player can leave an impact on players and coaches alike.
There's no doubt forward Antonio Davis, known as "Tone" to his teammates has left his mark on teammates and opponents, not to mention Norwich University's record books.
He's the Cadets' all-time leading rebounder, which is just one of the many records and accolades the senior from Albany, N.Y., has garnered during his tour of duty on the Norwich hardwood.
"My first week here I won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Rookie of the week, I think that was probably the worst thing that happened to me then because I felt I was playing pressured basketball instead of just basketball," said the 22-year-old physical education major.
"I was GNAC player of the week a couple times, I was second team all GNAC last year. I was on several all-tournament teams for tournaments we played in over the years. I won MVP of the team last year. I expect to make all-conference this year, even though I think I don't deserve it," Davis said.
Head coach Paul Booth, who is in his 19th year as the university's head coach, has won the most games in program history with over 200 wins. That's an average of more than 10 wins a year, a very respectable mark for the amount of games that are listed on a Division III basketball schedule. Booth has had up and down seasons, but in 19 seasons you will have that.
Booth knows how to win and he was very interested in Davis coming out of high school for his intangibles and what he could bring to the team besides pure basketball ability.
"There were two main expectations for him when he came here, one was he was a tremendous competitor and the second thing was he was from an outstanding winning high school program, so we thought he would impact our program in those two ways," the head coach said.
Forward Ian Marquis, a 22-year-old senior health science major from Stratton, Vt. has known "Tone" for four years.
"We had two original captains this year, Josh Cabrera and Tone. Josh is the lead-by-example type guy, he doesn't really talk much, and Tone is a hype-man, he will definitely get you going," Marquis explained.
His tough mentality and passion for the game is one of the original reasons Booth cited for recruiting Davis. Tone began honing his competitive nature way before his days playing basketball at the athletic powerhouse of Bishop Maginn high school. He realized his talents even at a young age, he said.
While Davis is agile and smooth like a guard, he is strong and physical like a center or forward. He is 6'6", tall but not super-tall like many post players in college, but he has been able to play and find success at NU down on the post, causing mismatches.
"He is more naturally a three or four guy, that is what he generally is, we needed him at the five and he stepped up and played the five. He's just more of a face-up juke left or right, take it to the rim type of guy more than back-you-down type, but he can still rebound and play the post well," Marquis said.
Marquis knows Davis' style of play extremely well, because he is often matched up against him in practice.
"He is a good defender, he is long, long and lanky. He knows real well when to jump, especially playing against me because he knows my tendencies well, so he usually gets me pretty well," Marquis said.
"He is very good at knowing other players tendencies. He is very difficult to guard because he is so long and he knows how to fall and shoot away from you. A smart basketball player, and has a great basketball IQ," Marquis added of his teammate.
Though Davis will be moving on, Marquis will be leaving behind more than a few "Tone moments," of which Marquis relates one.
"When we beat Saint Joseph last year at our place, we had just got our butts handed to us up there, they came here as the No. 1 seed and we knocked them off at home," Marquis said.
"Darrell Marshall (a former guard who has left the school) stole the ball, ‘Tone' was trailing and Marshall threw (the ball) off the backboard, ‘Tone' grabbed it and threw it behind his head dunked it, not just a dunk but a powerful slam and we all kind of rushed the court in the last minute of the game it was a ‘see ya Saint Joe's' type of moment when he threw it down," Marquis said.
Davis said he has made a lot of friends and those close bonds helped keep him in central Vermont.
"I think that is the reason why I stayed because of the relationships you make here. If it were based on the place obviously I wouldn't be here, the relationships built here is the reason I stayed throughout the years," Davis said.
"I think this Norwich experience has been really good for him, he has come a long way as a student, as an athlete and as a person," said Booth. "He is a completely different person than he was four years ago, his level of success is because of what Norwich provided him on and off the court. He is the type of kid we put up for all other potential students athletes to see that by attending Norwich University, this is what can happen to you and put you in a position to be successful."
"I have the utmost respect for Antonio and what he has accomplished," the head coach said.
While Davis has scored over 1,000 career points and is officially the Cadets' all-time leader in rebounds, snagging 815 boards, his most memorable moment was one about the team experience and an important game.
"What sticks out in my head the most was the home playoff game here my junior year," Davis said.
"Just to see how it felt to have a lot of people at our game here, because back in New York we were one of the best teams in the state two years in a row so we had sold-out venues every game, and I had forgotten that feeling," said Davis. "That was a good day and seeing people the next day to have them say ‘hey you guys are a good team,' that was a great experience."
Davis' accomplishments this past winter were a bright spot on a struggling team, which suffered through the season with more losses than expected.
"I sat as a bench player this year and we had a difficult season but the fact he could accomplish his statistical achievements from our hard work at practice was an accomplishment to the whole team," said guard Brendon Frye, a 19-year-old freshman athletic training major from Lake George, N.Y.
"We were all happy for him. that he got his 1,000th point and happy he broke the rebound record," Marquis said. "If he doesn't go into the Hall of Fame, someone should be fired."
"He's a wonderful kid that has realized or almost realized his potential. I think he is about to be very very successful off the court," Booth said.
Davis plans to graduate in December; he is coming back another semester so he can finish his minor in sports management .
He says he has gotten calls from some teams overseas.
"I've been contacted by a few people so we'll see how far I can go with that," Davis said.
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