On a sunny October afternoon, seven months after his personal trials became a public spectacle, the cheers engulfed Brandon Davies.
If Davies or anyone else wondered how he would be viewed in Provo while resuming his BYU career in 2011, the answer came during a football game when the Cougar basketball players were introduced individually. Davies drew by far the loudest response.
“That was a special moment, for myself and for the team,” Davies said.
This will top that: Thursday, prior to BYU’s game with No. 2 Gonzaga at the Marriott Center, a Senior Night tribute will honor Davies for a four-year career that almost certainly will conclude with top-10 rankings in points and rebounds.
He’s also the only BYU athlete whose career was interrupted in the middle of Jimmermania. The fallout and Davies’ response to it ultimately will make him one of the most memorable and, some would say, most admirable players in school history.
“You have all kinds of experiences with your players at different times on all your teams — some you’d kind of like to forget and some you’ll remember forever,” BYU coach Dave Rose said this week. “The thing that’s so impressive with this situation is how determined Brandon was to make it right.”
Thursday marks two years since Davies informed Rose of issues that would be judged in violation of BYU’s Honor Code, which addresses premarital sex, among other prohibitions. He would not “represent” BYU in basketball for the rest of the 2010-11 season, according to the school’s statement the next day.
Because the Jimmer Fredette-led Cougars were 27-2 and ranked No. 3, BYU and its then-sophomore forward became a huge story, attracting attention from the “NBC Nightly News” and “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, among many other outlets.
Personally, for Davies, the effects were immense. It meant he would be cast as a symbol of the school’s distinctive standards during the NCAA Tournament, as his teammates reached the Sweet 16 with him watching from the bench. It meant that Davies’ remaining at BYU would require an extensive readmission process, before he resumed his academic and athletic career in August 2011. It meant that in his first game back with the team, he would shoot free throws in the face of cruel taunts from Utah State’s student section.
Speaking of Davies’ turmoil in an overall sense, fellow senior Brock Zylstra said, “You could [have] someone with lesser character just kind of crumble in that situation — or go somewhere else, because it was easier.”
Davies’ decision to stay at his hometown school was a practical choice, but took some courage. Two years later, his reflection is concise: “It’s been a long ride, but it’s been nothing but exciting and positive for me. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.”
As for Senior Night, the significance of Gonzaga’s visit “drowns out the feelings of it being my last game here,” Davies said after Tuesday’s practice, while acknowledging “a lot of sentimental value.”
The Cougars (20-9) likely will play more home games, in the National Invitation Tournament. Davies needs 89 points to become BYU’s No. 10 career scorer — with two regular-season games, the West Coast Conference Tournament and postseason play to come.
In that case, he would join Michael Smith, Fred Roberts and Russell Larson among BYU’s top 10 scorers/rebounders (Davies and Larson also are in the top 10 in blocked shots and steals). Davies is sure to match Larson’s distinction with a second season of averaging at least one point, rebound, assist, block and steal, which the school’s news release labels “one of everything.”
That’s not counting Davies’ readmission to BYU, making his story one of a kind.
Brandon Davies’ rankings on BYU’s all-time lists, though 128 games
Points • 12th (1,564)
Rebounds • 11th (775)
Blocked shots • 5th (120)
Steals • 10th (126)
Wins played in • Tied for 5th (103)