Children inherit a lot from their parents. They can inherit anything from eye color to a business. A.J. Davis inherited his dad's love for the game of basketball.
A.J. and his twin sister Kaela were born shortly after their father was drafted into the NBA. For the first 10 years of his his life, Davis watched his father play professional basketball for the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. While growing up with a father as a professional athlete might seem glamorous, to A.J., it was just his dad’s job. He went to the games with his mom and sister, and when his dad was on the road, he counted the days until he came back.
“It wasn’t until I got a little older and discovered my passion for the game,” Davis said. “I realized just how special it was to be able to see my dad play the game every night at a level like in the NBA.”
While their parents wanted them to share a common interest, Kendra and Antonio Davis Sr. never pushed their kids toward one activity more than another. Kaela competed in gymnastic events and A.J. played soccer as they tried to discover their passions, but by the time they were in the fourth grade, A.J. and Kaela had discovered their love for basketball.
“As a kid, I went to school and came home to the game,” Davis said. “Whether it was going to watch my dad play that night or playing in the driveway with my twin.”
Antonio Davis Sr. retired when A.J. was in fifth grade, and from that point on, Antonio Sr. coached A.J. and Kaela. Both A.J. and Kaela styled their games to be guards, the leaders of the court. Antonio Sr. was able to create and lead a successful career holding things down in the post as a center or power forward, but he taught his kids how to direct their team. A.J. and Kaela spent countless hours in the gym mastering the skills, repeating numerous ball handling and shooting skills.
By the time A.J. had reached his teen years and high school, his family had settled in the Atlanta area as Antonio Sr. began his career as a sports broadcaster with the ESPN networks. The summer before his freshman year of high school, A.J. grew almost 10 inches. With his newly sprouted height, he realized just how much potential he had.
“I used to spend hours on end practicing my shot,” Davis said. “Perfecting my form until it was nothing but net.”
He transferred to the same high school as his twin and began to make college coaches take notice of his game. By the time he graduated from high school and signed with the University of Tennessee, he had built up himself to be the 10th best prospect in Georgia and the 53rd best small forward in the nation.
In 2013, Davis played in 25 games for the Volunteers in his first season in Knoxville. Shortly after that season, Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin stepped down and Davis announced that he would transfer to UCF after meeting with then head coach Donnie Jones.
Last season was his first season playing with the Knights after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA transfer rules. He would come back strong in 2015, however, and finished the season leading the team in scoring and rebounds, averaging 12 points and six boards per game.
As A.J. anticipates his last two years of eligibility as a collegiate athlete, he’s looking toward the future. A.J. looks to step into a bigger role in this upcoming season alongside the new coaching staff led by Johnny Dawkins. No one is more excited than his father.
“Watching A.J. mature on and off the basketball court is one of the things I've enjoyed most about his growth,” Antonio Davis Sr. said. “On the basketball court this past season, I've seen him be unselfish, encouraging and take ownership in his play, good or bad. Off the floor, I've seen him be a good teammate and make decisions that show maturity."
A.J. sees great things in the team’s future, and with a more experienced roster, A.J. is just as excited as any fan to see just how far UCF will be able to go.
A.J.'s ultimate goal is to follow in his father’s footsteps and make it to the NBA — Antonio Sr. is ready to pass down the torch.
"I'm very proud to have a son that values hard work, determination and discipline,” Antonio Sr. said. “I have no doubt in my mind that A.J. will be successful in life and hopefully, one day, I will be cheering as he continues his basketball career after college."
Playing basketball is in A.J.’s blood, and there isn’t any other way he would have it. A.J. Davis is stepping on to the court, ready and willing to take over the family business.
Jazmyn Patterson is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.