It all begins with a haircut.
Alex Davis spent his freshman season at Hutchinson Community College earning a reputation as the l’enfant terrible in the Jayhawk Conference — a 6-foot-9 basketball prodigy full known as much for his potential as for his long braids and his technical fouls.
And when the Blue Dragons season came crashing down with a loss to Cowley in the Region VI Tournament quarterfinals, he knew something had to change.
So he started with his hair. The rest is history.
“When I first came to Hutch, my personal issues and problems were effecting me not only as a player, but as a man,” Davis said. “I needed to grow up. I believe that cutting my hair was part of it ... there’s not too many successful people walking around with braids so I went for a clean-cut look. Changing my image and my look was part of becoming a more mature player and person.”
Davis and the Blue Dragons have realized their potential this season with a Region VI title and the No. 4 seed in the NJCAA Division I Tournament that begins Monday on their home court at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Hutchinson, 31-3, plays the winner of Monday’s Howard-East Mississippi game on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The tournament ends Sunday. Davis was named the Region VI Tournament MVP and second-team All-Jayhawk West.
“(Davis) has been a good leader,” Hutchinson coach Steve Eck said. “We talked about (the haircut) and his image and decided to do it.”
Davis, who signed with Fresno State and will graduate in May, averaged 13.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and led the Jayhawk Conference with 2.8 blocks. He didn’t stop with the haircut, either. He put on over 30 pounds of muscle — going from 171 to 205 pounds — and cut down on the technicals.
“I’m an emotional player and every now and then I’ll still get a tech, but I don’t feel sorry for myself,” Davis said. “I can own my mistakes.”
The addition of Jayhawk West player of the year Kadeem Allen, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard, and UTEP transfer D’Von Campbell, helped put the Blue Dragons over the top.
“It’s been an honor playing with Kadeem, but I think all are guards can make plays,” Davis said. “Kadeem plays so well with or without the ball that he’s good against any type of defense. I feel like D’Von might not be as flashy as Kadeem but he can control the game in his own way. It’s been great playing with al these guys ... the thing I cherish is that we’re very, very close off the floor. Before practice we’re hitting the weights and playing 1-on-1 and we can get on each other without getting mad.
“Our focus, now, is winning a national championship for the school and for (Eck), because he deserves it. He coaches his butt off and I want to make him happy ... I’m thankful I have him in my life. He’s pushed me to set bigger goals for myself and make myself a better person.”
Eck said he hasn’t changed the Blue Dragons’ schedule drastically for their tournament preparation — Hutchinson last won the national title in 1994.
“There’s some more demand on our time, but we talked about that,” Eck said. “They’re doing a good job right now, it’s not as big of a distraction but the time off is a bit of a concern, especially with two teams that are going to have one game under their belt when we play. That’s an advantage they have over us.”
Coffeyville, the other Jayhawk team in the national tournament, plays Walters State on Monday at 8:30 p.m.