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ABCD camp not kind to Cardozo’s Davis

One hour before...

By Mitch Abramson

The voice on the cell phone belonged to Theo Davis, but the 6-foot-9 senior from Cardozo did not sound happy. He sounded tired and exhausted like somebody who wanted to go home, which is exactly where he was going: Back home to Canada.

One hour before the underclassmen played an All-Star game at the Reebok ABCD camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. Sunday - the same game he played in last year — Davis packed his bags and folded his clothes-hanger frame into his car.

The experience at the ABCD camp had not been a good one.

Davis aggravated a groin injury that was plaguing him since the summer began Friday. He was elevating for a lob pass and got undercut by an opposing player, landing hard on his hip. Davis had been gathering momentum, performing well at the camp against 7-foot Greg Odem of Indiana and 7-foot-1 Clarence Holloway of Chicago.

“It hurts,” he said. “I was playing well and working hard. I know that a lot of people wanted to see me, but I proved myself during the year, and I didn't feel like it was that big of a deal. It’s frustrating that I can’t play, but people have seen me play before.”

Davis proved his merits during Cardozo’s impressive run to the PSAL finals, averaging nearly 17 points, 15 rebounds and two assists a game his junior year.

A number of schools are interested in Davis with Syracuse and Texas topping the list. Other schools are in the running as well: St. John’s, Memphis, Georgetown, Miami and Seton Hall are all paying attention. Davis has options that do not start and end with how he performed at the ABCD camp.

“He is one the few kids who could live the dream of one day playing in the NBA if he works hard and doesn’t get caught up in people saying things to him that will (hype) up his head,” said Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio. “He’s been exposed to that type of stuff since he was 12.”

Finding a school for Davis at the elite college level is not a problem; erasing the lingering doubts that surround him is another. Davis moved from Canada to Bayside to live with his aunt last year and the style of play up north did not really prepare him for the wars he faced in the paint.

“Playing rough isn’t accepted in Canada,” said Davis, who was named the MVP of the Rumble in the Bronx AAU tournament a week earlier. “They look down at you if you play a certain way. You get black-balled if you play too rough.”

Davis left Canada to escape the same venomous forces that drive most players out of New York. He said coaches and street agents roam unchecked in Toronto, where he grew up in the North York section, and they frowned on his decision to play for Grassroots Canada, an AAU team that travels all over the United States.

They preferred he play for Canada’s National Under-18 Team, but Davis had his sights set on attracting scholarships from major universities in the States, something he accomplished playing under Naclerio and in AAU tournaments where he has dominated and shed the soft image that followed him from Toronto.

“For him to reach his potential, he has to learn to play every minute hard,” said Tom Konchalski, a local talent evaluator. “He has to get accustomed to the American game, but he is a big time talent.”

Davis knows the future is full of opportunity, and the path is paved with hard work and winning the PSAL championship.

“I don’t want people thinking that I’m overrated,” he said.

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