Even the most uninformed of fans know the taller a player is, the bigger the advantage on the court.
However, the perpetual fascination of tall basketball players has hit an all-time high as coaches are utilizing taller and taller players to man the point guard position, which has been, historically, designated for the smallest member of a team.
To see this trend in action, Bartow County basketball fans do not need to drive down to Atlanta and Phillips Arena to watch the Hawks play, or to Hank McCamish Pavilion to see the Yellow Jackets. In fact, if fans want to see a vertically gifted point guard, all they need to do is travel to the Storm Center at Cartersville High and see 6-foot-4 Ryan Davis man the lead guard position for the Canes.
“It’s nice being that tall. A lot of times teams want to trap but he can see over the top,” Cartersville head coach Mike Tobin said of Davis’ size. “I haven’t had many like that. I’ve had a kid who is playing overseas right now, Emmanuel Holloway. He’s about 6-foot-2.
“Obviously, most of our point guards in high school are going to be 5-foot-10 to 6-foot or 6-foot-1, if that. A lot of times, with Ryan, it’s going to be a mismatch. If they try to put a short, quick kid on him, we’ll post him up. If they put their bigger, taller guy on him, Ryan is going to be quicker than him. There’s a lot of matchup problems for other teams.”
Davis is averaging 17 points per game this season and averaged 17.4 points to go along with 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game last season on his way to being named the Daily Tribune News’ All-County Co-Player of the Year.
In that 2012-13 season, he was the Rome News Tribune Tournament Most Valuable Player, the Northwest Georgia Tipoff Club Co-Player of the Year and a selection to both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class-AAA All-State Team and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s Class AAA North’s All-State Team. He also was named to the Region 5-AAA All-Region Team.
What makes Davis so unique is he combines size and athleticism to go with natural point guard instincts. The rare skill set makes Davis a terror on fast breaks where he can be seen throwing down dunks or hitting the open man if the defender commits to stopping him.
Years ago, it is possible a coach would have tried to stick Davis on the wing where his height is in alignment with the opposition’s players. However, the trend in college and professional basketball is to have taller and more athletic point guards on the floor.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is the most famous. The Hall of Famer from Michigan State and the Los Angeles Lakers was listed at 6 foot 9 during his playing days. The phenomena of tall point guards became more and more common after Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was drafted in 1993 and listed at 6 foot 7. Point guard Shaun Livingston was then drafted in 2004 by the Los Angeles Clippers and listed at 6 foot 7. Currently, the starting point guard at UCLA and highly touted prospect Kyle Anderson, who is listed at 6 foot 9, has flourished in his sophomore year after being moved to the point guard position from his small forward position he played a season ago.
In 2010, the average NBA point guard was 6 foot 1. With Livingston and other tall guards making the move into NBA starting lineups, the average height of starting NBA point guards, as of Jan. 23, is 6 foot 3. Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague, listed at 6 foot 2, is now the shortest one on the court many nights. However, Teague is a far cry from when Charlie Criss started for the Hawks during the early 80s at the diminutive height of 5 foot 8.
Davis’ favorite point guard is Philadelphia 76ers rookie and 6-foot-6 Michael Carter-Williams. Like Carter-Williams, Davis happens to be taller and as athletic as most point guards, but possesses the innate ability to create opportunities for his teammates, which allows him to stick at the position.
“He’s always seen the floor so well,” Tobin said of Davis’ passing ability.
“As far as point guards, I probably look at Michael Carter-Williams the most. I love how he played at Syracuse because he could take over when he wanted to but he could do the point guard stuff, too,” Davis said. “Me being a point guard, I can look over the smaller guards, and when I need to, I can post up on the low block, too.”
Davis said he has always played point guard and Tobin remembers when his floor general was a little shorter than he is today.
“It was kind of funny. When we first moved here, [Davis’ teammate and Mike Tobin’s son] Corey, played with all these guys with the city schools. So I knew all these guys growing up. The first time I saw all these guys play was when they were third-graders,” Tobin said. “I knew [Ryan] was real good. He was outstanding.”
However, when Tobin took the Cartersville coaching job two years ago, he was unsure whether he would have Davis play the point guard position or play off the ball.
“Actually, to be honest with you, that was my biggest question was, ‘Who was going to be our point guard?’” Tobin said. “Obviously, Ryan has done a great job. Once we made the decision, I’ve obviously been super happy with it.”
Besides passing instincts and athleticism, a point guard must be a leader on the floor. Davis has embraced that aspect of the position and has been a model Cane in his career on the court and in the classroom.
“Ryan’s done a great job in the classroom; you never have to worry about him doing something silly off the court. He’s a great teammate. They all get along and he does a great job in the locker room,” Tobin said. “He’s meant everything to us. Ryan could have, with as much success as he’s had, and he’s worked for it, could’ve come in this year with a big head. But he’s been real humble and works his tail off.”
Davis has been getting the attention of college recruiters, including looks from Middle Tennessee State, South Carolina Upstate and UNC-Wilmington. Those schools want him to remain at the point guard position. On the other hand, some of the more renowned programs nationally are recruiting Davis to play the shooting guard position.
Davis wants to remain at point guard in college, but first, he wants to finish his senior year of high school with a state championship.
Cartersville will be in the hunt when the state tournament approaches in February. However, Davis has already hit a career milestone with his 1,000th point, which came against Pope on Dec. 27 at Allatoona High.
Still, the game when his size, athleticism and passing skills were most on display was against Gordon Central on Jan. 8. Davis finished with a triple-double after he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks that game in just 2 1/2 quarters of game action.
“I don’t care about the stats. I just want a ring,” he said. “I just want to get one with the people I grew up with because I didn’t transfer like all my friends from other areas. I wanted to stay here and do something special with the people I grew up with.”