July 31, 2014 10:49:53 AM
Jason Davis had high hopes for Team Elite Mississippi prior to its trip to Louisville, Kentucky, for the Amateur Athletic Union Division I 11th-grade Nationals.
Even though Team Elite Mississippi went 1-3 last week at the showcase event for some of the nation's top prep
basketball players, Davis didn't miss an opportunity to shine. The Columbus High School product reached
double figures in points and rebounds in all four games and attracted attention from the hundreds of college coaches in attendance.
"I think my game compared good to the other players," Davis said. "I had a lot of good games and scored and rebounded. I tried to do my best for my team."
Davis had his best game in a 66-46 loss to Arkansas Wings Elite. Davis, an undersized forward in the 6-foot-3 range, had 33 points in the loss and dominated, according to Team Elite Mississippi coach Erise Wilson Jr.
Entering the tournament, Davis hoped to raise his profile with a strong showing. He said Wednesday he felt he accomplished his goal in proving he belongs with the nation's top players.
"I showed them I am hard-working player and I am going to work my hardest to get better," Davis said. "I am going to finish out the school year and do anything I have to do to get to college."
Wilson said Davis is taking two online courses at Columbus High in an attempt to put himself in better academic standing so he can move on to the next level. Wilson said Davis is doing well in the courses and that he will determine how quickly he finishes the courses and what he does from there. He said he will help him build relationships with college coaches and continue to work with him in basketball to ensure he gets an opportunity to take his talents to the next level.
"Jason's profile is extremely high right now because what he did in every single game from the 15-foot range," Wilson said. "He destroyed one of the top centers in the state of Arkansas."
Team Elite Mississippi, which is made up of players from Aberdeen, Columbus, West Point, and Noxubee County, finished 28th out of 84 teams at the 11th-grade championship. Wilson said that will put the team 38th in the nation when the power rankings are released.
Wilson hopes to use the experience to grow the program. He thanked all of the people who helped make the trip possible, and said he plans to branch out to every corner of the Greater Golden Triangle area to find players who want to be a part of his program. After seeing countless college coaches line the edges of the basketball courts for all of his team's games in Kentucky, Wilson knows the exposure the players receive at the tournaments can help them take the next step -- just like it could do for Davis.
"I have one agenda: To get these kids into college and to use basketball as an avenue to pay for that schooling," Wilson said. "What I saw in Louisville, Kentucky, I saw the best in the world. The kids were hungry. They were diving on the floor. I saw exactly what I have been trying to do, and I have seen coaches doing it for the reason I am doing it."
Wilson said Davis could move on to a two- or a four-year school as early as this semester if he works quickly and finishes with good grades in the online courses. He also said Davis could wait until next year to strengthen his academics and his basketball skills and try to attract the attention of college coaches.
"The number of college coaches who were there and right on the floor watching the games never fazed Jason," Wilson said. "He paid them no attention. He played better than I have ever seen him play the whole week. He was playing like he was hungry."
Davis said his showing in Kentucky gave him the confidence to know he can play with some of the nation's top players. He said he is excited about the possibilities of using basketball to open another door for him, and thanked Wilson for the opportunity to play with Team Elite Mississippi.
"I think I can play with (the best players in the country)," Davis said. "Mostly I gained confidence because I saw a lot of good players and did a good job. I feel I can play with anybody."
Team Elite Mississippi opened the tournament with a 64-52 loss to Kentucky Next Level. It also defeated the Georgia Ballers 71-50 and lost its final game 62-61.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.