Terence Davis Jr.

Terence Davis Jr. warms up on the Pavilion floor at Ole Miss prior to a game against Iowa State during his senior season. Davis is now a productive part of the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

Thirty teams passed on Terence Davis Jr., not once but twice, in the 2019 NBA Draft. After an incredible high school and collegiate career, Davis had to bet on himself to be in the position he is in.

Many NBA teams offered two-way contracts to Davis, meaning he would primarily play in the G League with limited NBA opportunities. Instead, Davis rejected those offers in pursuit of a full-time NBA contract.

After dominating the Summer League with the Denver Nuggets, Davis was offered a two-year contract with the defending NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. Since then, the rest is history.

Davis has put up 6.6 points per game, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 24 games with the Raptors. No one could’ve predicted the success that Davis has has in the NBA, not even his former high school coach.

Todd Arnold is currently the head boys’ basketball coach at West Jones High School in Laurel, but was Davis’ coach and the school’s athletic director at Southaven High School when Davis was a standout performer for the Chargers on the basketball floor.

“I don’t think anybody could foresee what he has done,” Arnold said in a recent phone interview. “When he was choosing a college, I knew he would excel at the college level. I knew he had the personality and the drive to work hard, but I would be naive to say I thought he would have been there. He capitalizes on every opportunity and that’s what it’s about.”

When Arnold first met Davis, it wasn’t even his talent that he was most impressed by. Davis, who was dunking in the 8th grade, wowed his new coach with his personality.

“He always wanted to learn and was just so coachable from the start,” Arnolid said. “He was just a guy that people immediately wanted to be around.”

More than anything, Arnold said Davis is dependable.

Once before a Southaven game, Arnold received a phone call from Terence Davis Sr. Davis Sr. had informed Arnold that he had to work and Davis Jr. would not have a ride to the game. Instead of missing the game as expected, Davis Jr. went door to door and found a neighbor to take him to the game. When most people would have quit, Davis wanted to get it done.

It is moments like those that have formed an unbreakable bond between the two. Arnold, a Mississippi State alum, said that he even became a Rebel for the four years Davis was in school.

“As a Mississippi State alum, it was a weird feeling,” admitted Arnold. “I was rooting for Ole Miss for about four years. You know, I actually sat at the Hump in the Ole Miss section and cheered when Ole Miss would score. It was a weird feeling for sure.”

More than watching him at Ole Miss, he has also become quite the Raptors fan.

“He has definitely made an NBA fan out of me, and I watch as many Raptors games as I can,” said Arnold. “I’m not really into the NBA, so I’ve probably watched as many games this year than I ever have. I even went down New Orleans not that long ago to watch him. It was a special moment, and I even got to meet up with him after the game.”

While he does celebrate Davis’ success, Arnold takes no credit for the success Davis has had. “I never would’ve guessed I would’ve coached an NBA player, but I’m just so fortunate.” Arnold said. “I was definitely in the right place at the right time, because I don’t think I did that.”

As Davis continues to flourish in the NBA, so does his support back in DeSoto County. For Arnold, nothing can make him happier.

“He is so humble and I just love to see great things happen to great people,” Arnold said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but, this time, I’m glad it did.”

Alex Gomez is a local sportswriter who contributes to the DeSoto Times-Tribune.