Toronto Raptors rookie Terence Davis famously took a chance on himself on draft night a year ago, spurning offers from teams who were looking to take him in the second round, as he didn’t want to sign a two-way contract.
So he went undrafted. And, after just one game with the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League team, the Raptors came swooping in with a two-year deal — including a a full guarantee on the first.
The offer and opportunity were exactly what the 22-year-old wanted, and more.
“I would say that the decision I made was definitely the right decision,” Davis said in a conference call Wednesday of going undrafted. “No doubt about that, because look at how things turned out. I played in every single game this season, not knowing that I would play in every game this season.
“I thought that I would be in the G League for at least half of the season and come first game of the year I’m playing 15 minutes opening night. Like, man, it happened so fast!”
Davis had been enjoying a quietly solid rookie campaign before the NBA season was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. As he said, he was the only Raptor to get into all 64 games this season and was the seventh-leading scorer on a deep Toronto roster that boasted the third-best record in the NBA.
The fact Davis has been as good as he has, despite playing the second-least minutes per game of players on the team who have got into at least 36 contests, has just been on icing on the cake.
But, always the competitor, Davis’ ambitions extend beyond just what he’s done so far. He had his eye on a much grander stage.
“During this whole coronavirus, COVID-19 shutdown I’ve just really had a lot of time to reflect on things. Some of the things I’ve accomplished and some of the things that’s yet to come like the playoffs,” Davis said. “I really want to take advantage of the playoffs. I really want the veteran guys to be able to trust someone like me in a game in the playoffs.
“I’m a rookie, so obviously I don’t know what’s to come in the playoffs — I’ve never been in the playoffs — but I want Fred [VanVleet], I want Kyle [Lowry], I want these guys to be able to trust me when I get in the game in the playoffs — if I get in the game during the playoffs.”
Now, however, with all of the rest of the 2019-20 campaign completely in limbo, Davis’ post-season aspirations are being threatened.
“I was so excited for playoffs because I’ve been working so hard for the playoffs, and now the question is up in the air,” he said. “We might not return so that’s just … I dunno, that’s just one thing right there.”
Despite the purgatory he, especially, appears to be navigating, Davis has found a paradise of sorts for himself during the hell that has been the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been in the gym every day at 12:00 getting weights in,” said Davis. “I want to be in the best shape and I just want to be able to be trusted so I can show [the Raptors veterans] that I’m ready to be part of you guys.”
Unlike a lot of athletes who have been forced into makeshift home workouts, Davis has been fortunate enough to find private gyms to workout in and get shots up in two separate locations.
Following the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine in Toronto, Davis and fellow Raptors rookie Dewan Hernandez headed down to Florida because Hernandez had a connection to a private gym for the two of them to get some reps in.
“I was just getting out of quarantine, I was in quarantine for 14 days, I haven’t touched a basketball, so I’m excited to touch a basketball, get in a gym because, like I said this is what we do, this is what I love to do, this is my job, so that’s what drove me to go to Florida,” said Davis.
After a few days there, Davis then headed home to Mississippi where he could visit his family, his soon-to-be 11-month-old son and, in between just staying home, continue to workout in a private facility near his place.
“I’ve been able to, fortunately, get in a private gym where it’s just me, a trainer, and maybe one other person rebounding and things of that sort,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to continue to get in the gym and get in the weight room, and just stay in shape that way.”
And while it’s been mostly work by himself — thanks to the veterans who have helped guide, support and put him through the ringer this season — Davis has felt confident in his ability to get the most out of the work he’s been putting in.
“Things that I’ve been doing throughout the season, I gained it from them,” Davis said of his veteran teammates such as Serge Ibaka, who took him under his wing this season. “The things that I see them do on the daily, them leading by example, I picked up on some of those things.
“So I kinda know what it is I need to do in the gym and outside of the gym — like eating right and things of that sorts. So I don’t really need to talk to someone everyday and be like, ‘Do this, do this.’ I already picked up on those little things.
“If there are some questions that I need to ask I can pick up the phone and call them, but they pretty much have got me on the right track as far as doing things on the court and taking care of my body.”
Grateful for the lessons passed onto him by his older colleagues, Davis has taken full advantage of the wealth of knowledge that has been with him all season long.
“Advice from a veteran is the best advice a rookie can receive, unless it’s from his head coach,” he said. “But a veteran knows because they’d been in a rookie’s shoes, they went through what we’re going through right now. So advice from veterans is just major, it’s like, ‘I want that.’
“So any time Fred or the older guys – Norm [Powell], Kyle, Marc [Gasol] – those guys talk, I’m listening, because I don’t want to miss anything.”
It’s been a wild and unorthodox, but still very productive and enlightening rookie campaign for Davis. It’s not one he wants to see end, but should the season actually wind up being cancelled, he should take solace knowing that the lessons he’s learned this season should set him up for success for next and well beyond that.
“As a person, I learned that if you continue putting in the work, continue keeping the faith in God, and just continue being coachable, the sky’s the limit,” Davis said of this season. “… I just learned that a lot of things are capable of being accomplished, you just have to have the work and the attitude and the faith to accomplish it.”