Brad Davison’s playing through injury as a Wisconsin freshman might end up becoming the stuff of legend.
Badgers fans surely will look back on his career years from now and recall that time when Davison first dislocated his left shoulder against Baylor in November, got it popped back in and returned to the game.
Fans will remember Davison becoming Wisconsin’s No. 2 scoring option and starting point guard 10 games into the season after D’Mitrik Trice had foot surgery. And that Davison played basically with one arm because the other was in a brace to keep his shoulder in place.
Fans will remember that second-half rally Davison fueled and his 16 points in a 57-53 upset of No. 6 Purdue that resulted in a court-storming by the home crowd at Kohl Center on Thursday.
“He’s playing out of position and playing with one arm — we’ve all heard that plenty of times,” Badgers coach Greg Gard said after the Purdue victory. “He’s an extremely tough competitor. He practices just like he plays. He never wants to come out of the game. So I’m glad he’s on my team. We’ll have him for a few more years yet.”
Davison, a former Maple Grove two-sport standout and the 2016 Star Tribune Metro Football Player of the Year, is one of the bright spots during a disappointing season for the Badgers (12-16, 5-10 Big Ten), who play host to the Gophers (14-14, 3-12) on Monday.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davison, who has scored in double figures in 12 of the past 17 games, wanted to establish himself as one of Wisconsin’s top players “as soon as I stepped on campus,” he said.
“I put a lot of time in to get to this point,” said Davison, who is averaging 11.5 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game. “When I got here I wanted to earn my teammates’ and coaches’ respect with the things I could do — whether it was on the court, in the weight room or off the court. I just wanted to earn that respect and leadership position.”
Davison hears from people in Minnesota about how they wish he played for the Gophers, who offered him a scholarship a couple of months before he committed to Wisconsin.
“All my best friends went to the U from high school,” he said. “They’re always talking about it, but Wisconsin is the place where I wanted to end up. I got nothing but respect for Minnesota, and I’m really excited for the opportunity to play against them and Coach [Richard] Pitino. Should be a lot of fun.”
Davison came off the bench for Wisconsin’s first four games but scored 14 points in his first career start Nov. 21 against UCLA. After moving to point guard Dec. 9 vs. Marquette, he had a rough time taking care of the ball, including a four-game stretch with 17 turnovers combined.
It didn’t make it easier that he was limited with a bum shoulder that nearly had him shut down for the season.
“It’s been extremely tough,” Davison said. “There have been times it popped out during the game, but I thought if I could manage the pain and get through it mentally I needed to. I’m just thankful to the Lord that I have the opportunity to play. I have two teammates who can’t play [Trice and Kobe King]. So I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.”
Wisconsin’s streak of 19 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament likely will come to an end. Gard has been forced to rely on several underclassmen as a supporting cast for All-America candidate Ethan Happ, including former Lake-ville North star Nate Reuvers.
The opportunity to play immediately was there for Davison. As for Reuvers, he was planning to redshirt but now has started 12 of the past 13 games. It helped having Davison to show him how to always compete at this level.
“He’s a competitor,” Reuvers said. “He pushes us to get better every day.”