Wisconsin sophomore guard Johnny Davis will enter the 2022 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility by hiring an agent, he told Malika Andrews on ESPN’s NBA Today on Thursday.
“After taking some time off and discussing everything with my family and coaches, I have decided to pursue a lifelong dream by declaring for the NBA draft with the intent of hiring an agent,” Davis said.
Davis, the No. 9 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus All-American after averaging 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 34 minutes per game.
“This season was an unbelievable ride,” Davis said. “People didn’t expect us to have the season we had, but the players in our locker room and our coaching staff always knew we had the potential to be a special team.
“With so many great teams and players in our league, it was obviously a huge honor to win Big Ten Player of the Year, but winning the Big Ten regular-season title and playing in the NCAA tournament was so much sweeter. I would like to think NBA teams saw a player who is tough, who competes on both ends of the court every single possession and who will do whatever it takes to help my team win. Every time I step on the floor, I want to be the best player .”
Davis led Wisconsin to a Big Ten championship, which the Badgers shared with Illinois after losing at home to Nebraska in the final game of the regular season. The Badgers led by 10 points at halftime, but relinquished the lead when Davis went down with an untimely ankle injury, which continued to hamper him in the postseason.
“I wasn’t 100%, but I felt confident that If I played, we still had a great chance of winning the Big Ten Conference tournament as well as advancing in the NCAA tournament,” Davis said. “I wanted to be out there with my guys to give it everything I had.”
Davis is a finalist for some of the most prestigious postseason awards in college basketball, including the Wooden, Naismith and Lute Olson awards, all of which are presented annually to the top player in Division I men’s basketball.
Davis grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin — 143 miles from Madison — and was named the state’s Mr. Basketball. He was also an all-star quarterback and played alongside twin brother Jordan, a wide receiver. Jordan Davis is a key reserve on the basketball team at Wisconsin.
Johnny Davis’ ascent from three-star high school recruit to arguably the best player in college basketball was remarkable. He was part of the USA Basketball team that won a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia this past summer, but few expected him to emerge as a potential top-10 pick just a few months later with the Badgers.
“Coach [Greg] Gard and my teammates believed in me and gave me the confidence and opportunity to have a much larger role than my freshman season,” Davis said. “Deep down I always knew I could be this caliber of player, but my success and experience with Team USA last summer took my confidence to another level and I just carried that into this season. I trust the work I have put in over the years, and I have been fortunate to work every day with arguably my toughest defender, my twin brother, Jordan, for as long as I can remember.
“I think NBA teams can learn that the path to the NBA is not the same for all players. I wasn’t highly ranked in high school, and I went to Wisconsin to change the narrative surrounding our program. My dad always told me that production will always trump potential and to keep my focus on playing hard and winning, and that has stayed with me.”
Drawing comparisons from NBA scouts to Jalen Suggs, the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft, Davis has rebounding, defensive versatility and toughness that put him on NBA radars early on as Wisconsin defeated Houston to win the Maui Invitational in November, with Davis scoring 30 points in the final and winning MVP honors.
He continued to shoulder a heavy scoring load for the Badgers in Big Ten play, emerging as his team’s primary ball handler and one of the best pick-and-roll and midrange scorers in college basketball, while hitting 37 3-pointers and 155 free throws in 31 games.
“I know the pace and style of play in the NBA is different, but I think that suits my skill set extremely well,” Davis said. “My ability to get by my defender, athleticism and strength to finish at the rim, and being a three-level scorer combined with added spacing in the NBA will give me the opportunity to be successful.
“… My hope is to effectively fill whatever role is asked of me by my next team, which hopefully results in our team winning games. I ultimately want to be one of the reasons an NBA team becomes a championship organization.”
The NBA draft combines will be May 16-22 in Chicago, and the draft will be June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.