by Michael Melvin, GoHeels.com
In the final year of the Henson-Marshall-Zeller-Barnes era of Carolina basketball, it was probably difficult to imagine that in two years, the 6-foot kid dressed in a suit and bowtie at the end of the bench would be contributing crucial minutes for the Tar Heel backcourt.
Most wrote him off as another seat on the bench. Others didn't even know his name. But for those who were paying attention, junior guard Luke Davis was not someone to overlook.
Despite the outcome of Sunday's matchup against Belmont, Carolina fans witnessed a significant growth in Davis's role in the Carolina backcourt. The Raleigh native tallied a career high of 25 minutes in the game, including 17 of 20 second half minutes at the point guard spot.
"I didn't really bring much stat-sheet-wise, but when I'm in there, I just give everything I have," said Davis.
Through the 2012-2013 season, Davis accumulated 85 minutes over 20 games, and this season he has already registered 60 minutes through 3 games. His minute per game average has jumped from 4.1 to 20, but increased time on the court isn't enough for the junior.
"I know I'm not the most talented player out there," admitted Davis. "I'm not going to score 40 points or anything like that, but I need to bring something more to the game instead of just being out there and kind of playing hesitant."
Having a veteran to rely on and a point guard to contribute key minutes is a definite asset for the depleted Tar Heel lineup, but a focus on impact is what is driving Davis's development.
"I just try to bring a spark or effort if we lack some defensive hustle. I need to be more of a threat and be able to guard the ball better," said Davis. "Marcus and McAdoo have been big, so I think doing the best I can to get them open and put them in position to score is probably the biggest takeaway."
While most of statistical categories to measure Davis's performance against Belmont were empty, his effort and defensive presence were certainly impactful.
The most dramatic change for Luke Davis since his days at Gardner-Webb revolves around his ability to be a realistic offensive threat. During his single season at Gardner-Webb, Davis attempted 126 three pointers and averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 assists. While he takes on a completely different responsibility in Carolina's system, being able to revive his offensive impact is critical for his effectiveness on the court.
"Every time I shoot it the coaches give me encouragement, and tell me it's a good shot," said Davis, "I know that if I'm open I need to shoot it to at least be somewhat of a threat out there offensively."
While Carolina's three-point non-conference loss to Belmont is certainly an early bump in the road, developing role players like Davis and bringing intensity to each and every game are factors that will be critical when conference play rolls around in January.
"They were up by 11 at one point and we were like: 'This is not Carolina basketball'," said Davis. "As a team, we have so much to work on, especially with Richmond up next. I know we have people missing, but we have to play more intense from the tip."