Provo • A couple days removed from the most significant regular-season basketball win in school history and at the height of the phenomenon that came to be known as Jimmermania, Brigham Young University stunned the sports world a year ago today with a shocking declaration. The announcement brought weeks of scrutiny and national headlines on the private school and its rigid code of conduct.
Sophomore forward Brandon Davies, a central figure on a third-ranked team that had just throttled fourth-ranked San Diego State on its own floor in front of nationwide CBS television cameras, would no longer be allowed to represent the LDS Church-owned university because he had violated its Honor Code, the school said in a terse news release after fielding media inquiries regarding Davies' absence from practice earlier in the day.
"It was difficult, but I am past that," Davies said Wednesday when asked about the anniversary of that dreadful day. "I am in a good place now."
The Salt Lake Tribune reported the next day that Davies ran afoul of the tenet that forbids students from having premarital sex. The saga became more bizarre in the days and weeks that followed because coaches and school officials perhaps in an effort to keep Davies from transferring allowed him to sit on the bench during BYU's Mountain West Conference and NCAA tournament runs, all while television and newspaper commentators across the country opined about not only that odd move, but the audacity of dismissing a star player for doing what many college students do on a routine basis throughout the country.
Opinions varied, but the national reaction was mostly positive for BYU, and for Davies, adopted by a single mother and raised a Mormon while growing up just a few blocks from BYU and graduating from Provo High School.
A year later, the 6-foot-9 Davies not only is a key member of the BYU basketball team having been readmitted into the school and allowed back on the squad in August he was just named one of the 10 best players in the West Coast Conference and is considered a potential pro prospect, if not in the NBA then possibly overseas.
It has been a success story so far, a tale of redemption and perseverance when Davies easily could have bolted for other opportunities, a less-restrictive environment. He said three months ago he never really considered leaving, especially after the school's dean of students met with him and outlined "reasonable" steps he could take to gain re-admission.
"I am so far past it, and so focused on what we are doing here now, that's all a blur now, to me," he said. "It's not really a thing that I think back on too much anymore, and get down on myself about, because all I can do now is keep moving forward."
Still, he entered his junior season not knowing what to expect. That Davies would be subjected to taunting and ridicule from opposing crowds all season appeared to be a foregone conclusion when Utah State students greeted him at the season-opener in Logan with disparaging signs and chants taunts so nasty and personal that school president Stan Albrecht would later issue an apology to BYU, saying the conduct "went far beyond mere school rivalry, fair play and most importantly basic human decency."
But that turned out to be by far the most extreme behavior directed toward Davies, and the chants and taunts gradually tapered off to the point where Gonzaga's student section barely made mention of the missteps during last week's 74-63 win over the Cougars at the raucous environment known as The Kennel. The most common refrain at the faith-based schools that make up the WCC was "Honor Code, Honor Code" whenever Davies went to the free throw line. Mild stuff, really, that Davies said never bothered him.
"I couldn't have done it without my teammates," Davies said of the entire ordeal. "We have all been there for each other, no matter what."
Senior wing Charles Abouo was in the locker room a year ago, still reveling in the win over San Diego State and looking ahead to the next day's game against New Mexico, when Davies stood in front of the team and apologized.
"Man, it has been crazy that it has been a year," Abouo said. "It seems like that was such a long time ago. I think if there is a grade better than an 'A' I would give Brandon that grade, for the way he's handled it. It was an impossible situation to work through, but somehow he did it."
So sensitive was the matter that former players and BYU officials declined opportunities to talk about it this week, saying they didn't want those bitter memories from last year to distract the team from Friday's debut in the WCC tournament at Las Vegas' Orleans Arena (9 p.m., ESPNU) against the winner of Thursday's game pitting San Diego against Pepperdine.
"He's done a great job with it," coach Dave Rose said Wednesday. "It was a difficult challenge that he's dealt with really well."
However, they will happily talk about Davies' contributions on the basketball floor this season, how he has improved several components of his game, including his free throw shooting, his defense, his footwork around the basket and his ability to stay out of foul trouble although that persistent malady still comes and goes.
With fellow forward Noah Hartsock battling various ailments in his left leg knee, calf and ankle issues Davies' importance to the Cougars will be magnified this weekend as the Cougars enter the conference tournament not knowing for sure whether they have done enough to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Davies was averaging 11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24 minutes per game at this time last year when the news came down shortly after the Cougars had defeated San Diego State 80-67 on Feb. 26, 2011, that he would not be allowed to finish the season. He's averaging 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 28.4 minutes a game this season.
Brandon Davies' year-by-year stats:
Year GP FG/FGA PCT. FT/FTA PCT RPG PPG
2009-10 35 69/128 .539 50/88 .568 3.0 5.4
2010-11 29* 115/219 .525 93/138 .674 6.2 11.1
2011-12 31 168/331 .508 126/178 .708 7.6 14.9
* Missed final eight games after being removed from the team for an Honor Code violation
West Coast Conference tournament
P At Las Vegas, Orleans Arena
BYU vs. San Diego or Pepperdine, Friday, 9 p.m., ESPNU
Website details why Carlino left UCLA
I A story posted Wednesday on the SportsIllustrated.com website goes into some of the reasons guard Matt Carlino decided to transfer from UCLA to BYU. Player Reeves Nelson would yell at an injured Carlino to leave the locker room, calling him "concussion boy." > sltrib.com/blogs/byusports