Michigan State Basketball: Deyonta Davis is the ultimate ‘what if’ story

Deyonta Davis decided to declare for the NBA draft after just one year of Michigan State basketball and it was a decision that didn’t pay off.

Over the years, there have been a number of “what if” players to suit up for Michigan State basketball but one stands out above the rest: Deyonta Davis.

What does it mean to be a “what if” player? It could have different meanings. One, it could be a guy who got in trouble, ended up transferring or leaving early or suffered injuries despite having a bright future and never panned out in East Lansing.

Davis came to Michigan State as a raw big man from Muskegon who looked like a future pro and declared for the NBA draft after his freshman season despite not being completely ready and instead of returning after the original declaration, he hired an agent and stayed in.

To this day, the fact that he didn’t get another year with Davis still haunts Tom Izzo to this day.

In an exclusive interview with IzzoLansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch asked the Hall of Fame head coach which player in his time at Michigan State he wishes he had one more year with.

The answer for Tom was easy.

Boy, I loved Miles’ (Bridges) attitude. Two years was a lot (for him to give). I would have liked to have Jaren (Jackson). Hands down for his sake it would have been Deyonta Davis. Hands down.

Davis is a solid answer given the fact that he probably had the most to gain of any Spartan to declare early for the NBA. Izzo also mentioned Bridges (for obvious reasons) and Gary Harris because he enjoyed coaching such a great basketball mind.

Izzo cares about his Michigan State basketball players

The answer is a bit surprising given that Couch didn’t imply that it had to be a guy who probably left too early and it didn’t pan out. It could have been anyone from Mateen Cleaves to Cassius Winston to Kalin Lucas to Miles Bridges. This goes to show just how much Izzo cares about his players.

Seeing Davis declare had to be tough for Izzo because he had just gotten more comfortable with the head coach and his teammates. The kid who never said a word was trusting his team and that was a big development for Davis who doesn’t usually open up like that.

And then the NCAA Tournament happened and a red-hot Michigan State team, a No. 2 seed, ended up getting dropped by Middle Tennessee in a shocking first-round upset, ending Davis’ career earlier than anyone expected.

Davis was getting input all over the place from mocks, scouts and his own camp and it ranged from a late-lottery pick to late-first round but it didn’t work out that way as he shockingly dropped to the second round because, well, the interview process wasn’t his strong suit and NBA teams wanted a guy who showed a little more emotion.

Izzo knew this, which is why he wanted him back another year.

Another year in East Lansing could have meant arguably one of the most athletic teams in the Big Ten for 2016-17 with Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward coming in and he would have helped tremendously with the size problem Michigan State had. He could have grown as a leader for the young squad and started in the post, getting better with Ward. He could have become an elite defender with more minutes under his belt (he was lightly used as a freshman).

Davis could have developed a jumper. He could have developed one of the best post games in the conference and averaged a double-double with ease. The potential was there.

Another year at MSU and Davis is a first-round lock and probably a more vocal and emotional player. He is the ultimate ‘what if’ story at Michigan State.

The fact that this still bothers Izzo today truly speaks volumes about the type of coach he is.