Tournament Tales ... with Ed Davis
Cavs Backup Big Man and Former Tar Heel Weighs in on the Final Four
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
4/1/22 | Cavs.com
This Saturday, following a rare Cavaliers matinee at Madison Square Garden, college basketball royalty takes center stage as the 2022 Final Four tips off in New Orleans.
The schools among this year’s quartet all have rich histories when it comes to college hoops. And as eager as fans are to watch Jay Wright’s Villanova squad square off against top-seeded Kansas, the main event takes place afterward when North Carolina takes on their hated rival, Duke, in legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last stand.
Two members of the Cavaliers who’ll be watching the matchup with a little extra attention will be assistant coach Antonio Lang – who won two titles with the Blue Devils, in 1991 and ’92 – and reserve center Ed Davis – who won the NCAA Championship with the Tar Heels in 2009.
A top 15 recruit out of Virginia, Davis started only two games in his first season at Chapel Hill, but led the team in rebounding and was eventually named to the ACC’s All-Freshman team. He upped his scoring average in the Tournament and would proceed to lead North Carolina with eight rebounds off the bench in the title game against Michigan State.
Roy Williams’ Tar Heels dominated their opponents in that 2009 run – becoming the first team to beat each opponent by at least a dozen points. They won their opening round game against Radford by 43 points and reached the Final Four after besting Blake Griffin’s Oklahoma Sooners in Memphis.
In the title game against Tom Izzo’s Spartans, North Carolina led the entire way – running out to a three-TD lead before intermission and barely looking back in the second half.
As the Cavs gear up for Saturday’s critical showdown with the Knicks on Saturday afternoon, Cavs.com sat down with Ed Davis to talk about North Carolina’s commanding run in 2009, the famous Tar Heel alumni and how he’s feeling about tomorrow’s heavyweight showdown …
Ed Davis led North Carolina in rebounding as a freshman in their title-winning season in 2009.
Photo by Andy Lyons/via Getty Images
What do you remember about rolling to the NCAA title back in 2009?
Ed Davis: It was a dominant run.
We were favorites going into the year. We had everybody returning. We had the freshmen – me, Larry Drew, Tyler Zeller, Justin Watts. We had the vets. We were tooled with some firepower.
I didn’t really understand the magnitude of it back then. I thought everything was easy. I was a freshman, surrounded by future pros. So, I really didn’t understand it.
But it was just a dominant, fun run.
That team had some big-name players. What was the personality of the 2009 North Carolina squad?
Davis: It was a good blend. We had the experience, the upper classmen. We had young, fresh legs. But there was just one goal: try to win the Championship. And we all knew, if we win the Championship, everyone’s going to get rewarded.
It was easy for me to fit in. My role was already defined. So, it was an easy transition for me.
But we had the perfect blend of personalities. Tyler (Hansbrough), he’s really quiet, but loud on the court. Danny Green, he’s just an energetic, fill-the-room-up kinda guy. You had Ty Lawson – ain’t no telling what he was going to do.
So, you just had a great mix of guys on our team.
"That (stuff) is serious down on Tobacco Road – so I understand it. And this year, what’s better than a Final Four matchup between these two – and to be able to send Coach K home the right way?"
How confident were you going into the title game against Michigan State?
Davis: That game was over before it started.
We had beat them before that year – at Ford Field by 20-something. And I think we were up at half in the Championship game by 20.
Once we got to the Final Four, we knew we had the Championship locked up. That was an easy matchup for us.
We always hear about the North Carolina alum watching over the program. Does that add to the pressure?
Davis: Maybe, but it’s good pressure.
When I was there, I had guys like (Jerry) Stackhouse to look after me. He was probably the one who helped me most on and off the court.
And then, for me personally, I have a house in Raleigh. So I train there, and I try to give the guys as much knowledge as I possibly can. I’m one of the guys that’s around a lot, so I just try to do what guys like Stackhouse and ‘Sheed (Wallace), Vince (Carter), Marv (Williams) and all those guys did for us when we were there.
You take that responsibility seriously?
Davis: Yeah. You always have to pay it back, man.
I was in a fortunate situation to have Stackhouse around and take me under his wing. It’s always appreciated.
What’s the essence of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry?
Davis: Well, the schools are only like 10 miles apart. But it was just like another game for me. I didn’t grow up a college hoops fan, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I had a lot of friends I played with that went on to play for Duke, so it was like just another game.
But that sh*t is serious down on Tobacco Road – so I understand it. And this year, what’s better than a Final Four matchup between these two – and to be able to send Coach K home the right way?
Have you and Antonio Lang been going back and forth?
Davis: He tries to keep it a little humble. We put a little dinner on it – some steak and potatoes.
But it’ll be a good one. It’s a big one. It’s bigger than just a Final Four game. There’s so much on the line.
As dumb as it might sound, this game is more important than the Championship game. If we win this one and lose the Championship, it’s alright.