This column was first published on Dec. 16, 2010.
Starting center Brandon Davies was dismissed from the team on Tuesday, March 1, because, according to BYU, he ran afoul of the school's strict honor code.
The long odds that Brandon Davies ever would play basketball at BYU stretch some 2,200 miles, from one realm to another, from the remarkable to the ridiculous. The string of unlikely events early in his life that later brought him to the Cougars is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis short of impossible.
And, still, here he is, all 6 feet, 9 inches of him, suiting up for BYU, scoring 10 points a game, growing with nearly every opportunity, making opponents pay when they spend too much time hound-dogging Jimmer Fredette up top and forgetting about the low post. Against Creighton, the sophomore went for 24 points, most of them late, nailing down that win. Truth is, with Fredette already a given, if unbeaten BYU is to make the most of what it might be this season, Davies will be the ballast that steadies the pursuit.
"With the success he's had the last three or four weeks, I think it will really help his confidence, and that will continue to build as the season goes on," says Cougars coach Dave Rose. "I think he plays and wants to develop his game because he loves the game. But I also think he wants to make his family proud, so that's a big part of his motivation."
His family is what got him from there to here.
To appreciate that path, a route that turned tragic and tender, we must back all the way up to nine months before Davies was born. That's when his mother, Kathy, traveled to Philadelphia to adopt an infant daughter. When she got to the agency, there was only a boy. She happily received her new son, and named him Steven. She brought the baby to her home in Provo, where the single mother meshed, if that's the proper term, her child into a household with a previously adopted son and daughter.
Steven was a delight and a blessing. Adopting a baby, to Kathy, was every bit the same as giving birth to one.
"It's just a real warm, wonderful feeling, like for any parent who has a newborn baby in her arms," she says. "It's pure joy. When that baby is placed in your arms, it isn't somebody else's child, it's your own."
But two weeks later, the little one was discovered to have pneumonia, and shortly thereafter died. The same agency worked continuously to find another baby for the heartbroken mother in Utah, and it succeeded the following year.
The infant's birth mother, a girl who turned 16 just three days before the baby's arrival in a Philadelphia hospital, chose Kathy out of a group of prospective parents, in part, because her own name was Shawn and Kathy's oldest son had the same name. That coincidence made a strong impression on the young girl.
Kathy brought the 4-day-old baby back to Provo, where she loved him and taught him and raised him. His name: Brandon. Nineteen years later, he plays for BYU.
"If Steven hadn't have died, I wouldn't be here," Davies says.
Although Kathy is a Cougar fan, she plotted no such course for her son. "I wanted Brandon to succeed scholastically, not in sports," she says.
Davies loved almost every sport, from soccer to baseball to â¦ well, you know what. His growth plates commandeered his fate when they stretched his height by some seven inches during his middle school days, when he grew to 6-6. Unfortunately, his coordination did not keep pace.
"I barely made my Junior Jazz team in 7th grade," he says. "And I hardly played. Same thing in 8th grade. I was kept on teams because I was tall."
By the time Davies was a senior at Provo High School, even as his dimensions continued to expand, his skills caught up with his size. He was recruited by Cal, Gonzaga, Utah, Utah State, among others, before deciding on the Cougars.
"I wanted to be close to home," he says.
Such is the sweet draw of the ties that wrap themselves around a child, born a world away, and stay warmly wrapped as he becomes a man.
Davies, an African-American, says he can't picture his upbringing being any more wonderful than it has been. Ethnic makeup was never a factor in his home. Kathy is white and Davies' siblings were adopted from India. Inside or outside of basketball, he says he can't imagine his existence being any different, any greater than it is.
"You'd be surprised how often I think about that," he says. "I have no idea where I'd be without my mom. I couldn't see it working out better. There's not a word to describe it. It's unreal, I guess, how blessed I am. It's been a great thing. Life is good."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 The Zone.