'He's earning it': New Iowa 2020 target Johnny Davis is an emerging star in the class
PLYMOUTH, Minn. — Iowa assistant coach Sherman Dillard messaged Johnny Davis last Wednesday during his chemistry class at Central High in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He wanted Davis to give him a call when he got the chance.
So, the 6-foot-5 combo guard quietly stepped out of class and dialed Dillard's number.
Five minutes later, he held a Hawkeyes offer. Pretty good day in chemistry class, huh?
"Yeah," Davis told the Register last weekend with a smile. "It was."
Iowa isn't the only high-major school contacting Davis right now. Far from it, in fact.
Davis has added offers from Minnesota, West Virginia, DePaul, Iowa and Marquette this spring. He said Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa State, Wake Forest, Purdue and California are also showing interest. His AAU coach, Justin Mallett, said Virginia and Central Florida are in the picture, as well.
The Wisconsin product has always been an athletic slasher who could fill up highlight reels. That's how he earned offers from Green Bay, Milwaukee, UNLV, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin last summer.
But now, Davis is showing off a greatly improved jump shot.
He's shooting 57% overall and 33.3% from long range while scoring 13 points per game so far in the Under Armour Association. And while that 3-point stroke could still use more practice, it has turned Davis into a much more well-rounded prospect — a high-flying athlete who's also an outside threat.
Translation: Davis has become a bona fide high-major target.
And Iowa is hoping its early involvement pays off.
"A lot of high-majors are starting to come into the picture, especially over the last week," Mallett said. "He's been working on his game. Everything he’s getting right now, he’s definitely worked hard for and he’s earning it."
After last AAU season, Mallett sat down with Davis and discussed how he could boost his recruiting stock. It really came down to one thing: a more consistent jump shot.
So, Davis worked. He put up 500 3-point shots a day in his high school gym, and he finished his junior season 17-for-41 (41.4 %) from long range.
He said he still puts up those 500 shots a day.
"It's all I've been working on lately," Davis said.
Added Mallett: "It’s night and day. Last year, teams would purposefully play off of him and make him try to drive because they knew he wasn’t going to kill them from the 3-point line.
"Everybody thought, 'Well maybe he’ll just be a mid-major kid.' Then Wisconsin came in and offered and created a little bit of buzz. But he knew what he had to do, and now that year-to-year progression is showing and now he’s reaping the benefits of that."
With a blossoming stock, Davis said he has no plans to narrow down his choices or focus on specific schools until after the summer. He has already planned an unofficial visit to West Virginia, and he said he'd also like to visit Iowa.
"I just know they have a really good coach, Fran McCaffery," Davis said. "He’s done it for a while and that’s a really good program."
Davis and his Wisconsin Playground team played at PrepHoops' Battle at the Lakes over the weekend. The tournament featured a loaded field of talent, with guys such as D1Minnesota's Dawson Garcia, Ben Carlson and Kerwin Walton.
Still, Davis may have had the best weekend of anybody.
He just has the wow factor that can turns heads in an open gym. And Mallett expects that wow factor to give Davis plenty of options before he makes a decision — especially as some of the country's top targets eliminate schools from contention.
"Now that they’re narrowing their list down," Mallett said, "(schools) are like, 'OK, here’s this kid right here. He’s right here.' Like, with Marquette, I think that happened. I think some other schools are going to start to see that as well. And Johnny’s one kid that I think, come July, with his work ethic, is going to be even better."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.