WESTFIELD, Ind. — R.J. Davis arrived in Atlanta in late April with something to prove. His success — and production — at Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, N.Y., during his sophomore and junior seasons had drawn the attention of Division I coaches, but he was still mostly flying under the radar.
Davis' recruiting status after the conclusion of his junior year with the Crusaders stuck with him the most. Even if he wasn't ranked among them, the 6-foot, 160-pound point guard knew he could play with the nation's best, and he spent that weekend in Atlanta and another in the north Indianapolis suburbs proving just that.
"I wasn't on a top 100 list," Davis said. "I wasn't ranked coming into EYBL. I'm looking to keep rising and keep climbing to the top.
"I just wanted to come out and make a statement for myself. Coming out here, there's a lot of talent. I wanted to make a name for myself and to dominate. I love competing, and I'm showing it here at EYBL."
That Davis is "competing" on the EYBL circuit is a borderline understatement of the year contender. The Class of 2020 guard has New York Renaissance at 5-3 heading into the final session that starts today in Dallas.
Davis is also among the top scorers in the EYBL, as he is currently averaging 21.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field and 54 percent from three-point range (on nearly five attempts per game).
"My ability to score definitely," Davis said is what he's been able to show through eight games. "My defense has improved. I've been contributing being a 'do everything' guy. My teammates look for me to run the team, score and get them in the spot they need to be."
Davis' production level on the EYBL circuit didn't exactly come out of left field. A three-year starter at Archbishop Stepinac, Davis has become an increasingly bigger part of the Crusaders' success. He put up 25.4 points, seven rebounds and 4.9 assists this past season. His career numbers — 20.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and a 45/38/84 shooting slash line — are just as impressive.
Playing for New York Renaissance has simply put Davis' strong overall game on a national stage. Playing with top 10 2021 recruit Jonathan Kuminga and 2020 Purdue commit Ethan Morton — both capable on the ball — allows Davis to play a dual role in the Rens' backcourt.
"My ability to play on the ball and off the ball is amazing," he said. "Coming from Stepinac, I was thought of as a main ball handler, but now I can show all types of my game and my arsenal being able to come off screens, use screens and create for my own."
Beyond Davis' lights out three-point shooting on the EYBL circuit, he's shown an ability to score at all three levels. He has a solid mid-range game and is able to finish strong around the rim despite being a smaller guard. If he doesn't finish? Look for Davis at the free-throw line, where he's shooting 81 percent.
"I work on that a lot — drawing contact and drawing defenders — because I know I'm a great free throw shooter," Davis said. "Once I get into the lane and there's a body bump, the shot will go up because I know I'll get to the free throw lane."
Davis is now ranked as a four-star prospect by both 247Sports and ESPN, but he's yet to crack the top 100. His highest ranking is 112th in the 2020 class by 247Sports. Davis boasts a mix of mid-major and high-major offers, with Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern, Pittsburgh and St. John's accounting for the latter.
The Illini offered in March 2018. It was part of a recruiting push into Archbishop Stepinac that landed Alan Griffin and got Illinois in early on his younger brother, A.J., who's a top 10 prospect in the 2021 class.
"They're here and there," Davis said about his contact with the Illinois coaching staff. "Alan, that's one of my brothers. We both had history at Stepinac since my freshman year, and we've both come a long way. I'm proud of him."
Now or never
The final regular season session of EYBL play presents the last chance for teams to lock up their Peach Jam berth for July. Here's four teams featuring Illini recruiting targets that need to make a move in Dallas:
DJ Steward has emerged as one of the top scorers on the circuit and ranks fourth at 25.9 ppg among players with a full eight games played. MeanStreets (4-4) will need the Whitney Young guard to carry the load again in Dallas to move out of sixth place in Division A and into a Peach Jam berth come the middle of July.
Team Final capped its weekend in the Indianapolis suburbs with the upset of the session — taking down the then-undefeated Texas Titans to get to 4-4 and in sixth place in Division B. Illini target DJ Gordon had 16 points in that win, and the four-star wing will need to be just as productive in Dallas.
A five-way tie for first place in Division C is where MOKAN Elite (6-2) finds itself heading into the final regular season session. Something has to give at the top, meaning wins this weekend are still important for Illini targets Luke Kasubke, Kennedy Chandler, Samson Ruzhentsev and Davion Bradford.
Brad Beal Elite
No team needs an unbeaten weekend more than BBE after a 2-6 start through the first two weekends put it in ninth place in Division D. Even getting back to .500 might not be enough, but boasting top prospects like Caleb Love, Moses Moody and Cam'Ron Fletcher could yield a wild-card berth at Peach Jam.