Scotty Davenport is in his eighth season as the head basketball coach at Bellarmine University. He is 162-62 in those 7-plus seasons, including the 2011 National Championship, and a trip to the 2012 Elite Eight and Final Four. His 2012-13 squad is off to an 8-0 start and is ranked No. 4 in the nation. The Knights host Quincy at 8 p.m. on Jan. 3, and Illinois-Springfield at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5.
KENT TAYLOR: Eight games into the season, how do you feel about this team?
SCOTTY DAVENPORT: We’ve literally gotten better every game and every practice. I know that’s coach speak, but these guys have really gotten better. I knew that was going to happen because we have eight new guys.
TAYLOR: What would you like to see from the Bellarmine home fans in the second semester?
DAVENPORT: First of all, our students are back, and that’s a huge plus for us. Our home game on Jan. 3 is the first day of class. We’re getting ready to go through an 18-game gauntlet in the GLVC, five teams in the top 17 in the country. We know that there are a million people in this metro area, we’re asking for 2,500 a night. Let’s race up the national attendance standings. More importantly, it helps our players, it helps recruiting, it makes it a tough place to play. We are really begging for the people to come out.
TAYLOR: For basketball fans in the area who haven’t seen Chris Dowe, is he as exciting a player as you have coached?
DAVENPORT: Chris Dowe is a good player at any level. We all refer to Division II, because that’s where we play, but Chris Dowe is a great player if you’re playing Cincinnati, if you’re playing Louisville. He plays with guys all summer. He played up in Indianapolis. Chris Dowe is a really good basketball player, but the reason he’s good, is he affects the game a lot of ways. He defends, he blocks shots, he soars to dunk a ball, he’ll hit a three. The most important thing is, he’s really taken pride in becoming a good passer.
TAYLOR: Bullitt East senior Rusty Troutman had a great week in the King of the Bluegrass; how big of a recruit is he for Bellarmine?
DAVENPORT: Rusty Troutman, as great of a player as he is, he’s even equal or better as a person. He is a polite, courteous, humble young man. He has a tremendous family support group, in terms of his parents, his brothers, and it’s a basketball family. We’re thrilled to get him and every game we go watch him, we just get more excited about him joining our basketball team.
To tell you the kind of kid he is, invariably he’ll come to a home game and I’ll get a text: ‘great game coach, thanks for the tickets.’ Well, no, you’re one of our family, you’re in our family.
We’re just very excited about him, because again, like Chris, he affects the game in a lot of ways. He rebounds his position, he can block shots, he defends, he passes, he can hit threes, he has a midrange game. Very talented player and he’s without a doubt one of the top players in the senior class in the state of Kentucky. He plays and plays and plays the game, but he wins and wins and wins.
Go back through his career at Bullitt East, and he’s coming out of a tremendous program. I’ve known Troy Barr for 25 years, and he does a tremendous job. Rusty, he did this on the AAU level, it doesn’t make any difference where he’s playing, he just plays and plays and plays, at a very high level, in a consistent manner, and he wins.
TAYLOR: How important is that factor in the recruiting process?
DAVENPORT: When I was getting started in my coaching life, the Bill Olsens of the world, the Jerry Joneses, the Wade Houstons, the guys when I was a graduate assistant at Louisville, they always said that in recruiting there is a lot to be said about winning. Our practices are structured (so that) every drill has consequences, and being competitive will spill over to the rest of their life. It’ll spill over in the academic setting, it’ll spill over when they’re trying to get jobs. It is all about competing, and it’s a very competitive world that we live in. The sooner these young people find that out, the better off they’re going to be. This is why we recruit winners – we put a lot of stock in that.
TAYLOR: How important would it be for Bellarmine to get to the Elite Eight this year and play in Freedom Hall?
DAVENPORT: The players know it every day. They know everything now, in this age of technology and information. I think that it would just be a phenomenal honor to see this city on the grandest of stages in Division II basketball, the Elite Eight, in a building that has hosted six NCAA Division I National Championships. To wake up the echoes, all those Louisville fans, the Kentucky fans, the Indiana fans, all those fans who had great nights at Freedom Hall – what if we could just make it and reawaken all those memories, and go in there and have the support of this community. (It) would be, like Jim Nantz says, one for the ages.
TAYLOR: With all of the Catholic schools splitting from the Big East and forming their own league, has there been any talk at Bellarmine about joining a league like that?
DAVENPORT: We are Division I in lacrosse, and to do that, we’d have to go Division I in everything. I think college athletics right now is on such a topsy turvy run right now, it’s just crazy. Our concentration and focus right now is just on being great where we are. If those opportunities presented themselves, that would be done at a much higher level than a coaching staff. That would be done through Dr. McGowan, Dr. Rhodes, Scott Wiegandt. I think you must be prepared for everything right now in college athletics. Even our own league, who knows?
There’s a Division II league in West Virginia that just kind of imploded last summer. I think you must do your due diligence to always be ready. I’m not saying we’re leaving or nothing is imminent for us, but you have to have your finger on the pulse on what’s going on in college athletics.
TAYLOR: When you coached Allan Houston at Ballard, was it obvious to you early on that he was that kind of a special player?
DAVENPORT: Allan Houston was, again, these great players have great written on them in all facets. He was an advanced program student at Dunn Elementary, at Kammerer and at Ballard, which is the top 4 percent. His mother (made sure that) if he went to a basketball camp, he had to read a book for every camp he attended. He was going to be a balanced individual.
The game was easy for Allan to play, his vision was tremendous, he was a great, great shooter of the basketball. When you can shoot that well, you can always play. Allan’s demeanor as a person was exactly the same academically as it was athletically. When you see great players, those two things will always go hand in hand. Greatness doesn’t just occur on the basketball court, it will occur in every facet of your life, and Allan’s a great example.
TAYLOR: DeJuan Wheat is another one who stands out; was he the quickest player that you ever coached?
DAVENPORT: He’s the most humble player I ever coached. You bring up Allan Houston and DeJuan Wheat, both young men are incredibly humble. The next person that DeJuan Wheat shows up or embarrasses will be the first. If he needed to jump to dunk a basketball to win a game, he was going to jump up and dunk it. If the play called for him just to breakaway and use the backboard and be a fundamental player, that’s what he was going to do. To see him go on and play professionally, not only in the NBA, but in Mexico and throughout Europe, and get his degree and do things, again, (it goes) back to being a balanced person.
TAYLOR: You won a state championship at Ballard, went to the Final Four at UofL, won a National Championship at Bellarmine. When you walked onto the court at the KFC Yum! Center for the exhibition against UofL and you were greeted by your son, Doug – on the UofL bench as the Cards’ video coordinator – was that an even different emotion?
DAVENPORT: You’re seeing him on a staff with a Hall of Fame coach. You walk across that court, it’s 50 feet across that court, you’re thinking, he was a ball boy at eight years old. He’s absolutely just living a dream. It’s well documented, my fond feelings for the University of Louisville, but I don’t think there is anyone on the face of this earth that loves the University of Louisville more than Doug Davenport does. He’s on his way to be a coach. I told him to look at all options, he was a very good student, and he said, “Dad, I want to be a basketball coach.” He’s going to be a really good one, he loves the game, he has a passion for the game. Most importantly, he has a passion for young people. He really cares about young people. If you put them first, you’ll never go wrong in coaching.
This issue of The Voice-Tribune went to press Dec. 28 prior to the Battle Of The Bluegrass. Look for coverage of the Dec. 29 Kentucky v. Louisville game in the Jan. 10 issue.