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Dale Davis Becomes First Men’s Basketball Ring of Honor Inductee

Sept. 11, 2000

by Tim Bourret Sports Information Director The Missouri Game Program – September 9, 2000

Dale Davis attacked everything he did in life during his four years at Clemson with a purpose and vengeance. Apparently he still leads his life with the same vigor today.

Whether it is challenging the opposition in pursuit of a rebound, a power dunk to the basket or playing defense against the best players in the ACC, Dale Davis put everything he had into every play.

That same intensity carried over into his life off the court. In the classroom, he graduated in four years with his original class.

Despite the incredible time demands involved in playing major college basketball, he didn’t even need an extra summer session to receive that diploma, something that made his mother smile on that graduation day in 1991.

Dale Davis will be the first men’s basketball player inducted into the Clemson Ring of Honor today. We normally would bestow this honor on Davis at a basketball game, but his schedule is still very hectic. He is still playing at a high level, about to begin his 10th year with the Indiana Pacers of the NBA. This is really the only time we can properly honor “The Toccoa Tiger”.

I have many memories of Davis. At the end of his first home game as a Tiger, in 1987 against Baptist, you certainly would not have thought Dale Davis would ever be inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame, never mind the Ring of Honor.

Davis could not make a layup. It was hard to watch. A great rebounder (probably from birth), he had trouble scoring. He shot 3-10 that day and the three he made were dunks. That frustrating afternoon made him work harder. Today it is incredible to look at the list of Clemson’s career scoring leaders and see him ranked sixth on the all-time list. To see him hit 10-12 foot jump shots in the NBA is a testimony to his work ethic and dedication.

Including all football players, Davis is the toughest athlete I have seen in my 22 years at Clemson. During the 1989-90 season, he was a first-team All-ACC performer, joining forces with Elden Campbell (honored by his induction into the Clemson Hall of Fame today) to lead Clemson to its only ACC regular season championship in history.

That entire season, Davis played with a stress fracture in one of his feet. This is basketball, constant pounding up and down the court. He never missed a game, playing 35, 34 as a starter. He averaged 15.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, one of just two Tigers (Sharone Wright the other), the average a double-double over the course of a season in the 1990s. His senior year Clemson was playing UNC-Charlotte in Littlejohn Coliseum. It was a fast paced game, in fact, it would conclude with both teams scoring more than 100 points, the only game in Littlejohn Coliseum history in which that has happened.

In the first half, Davis went up for a rebound and came down awkwardly, falling to the floor in pain. Doctors and trainers raced to the floor, seeing that he had dislocated a shoulder. Dr. Stewart Clarkson reset the shoulder on the floor, but the pain was intense.

Davis was taken to the locker room and his was put in a sling. With Davis in the locker room, a young Clemson team fell behind. Davis came back to the bench in full uniform, but the sling still attached.

“I was at a wedding and was received a message that Dale had been hurt and that I needed to go to Littlejohn Coliseum,” said Dr. Larry Bowman, Clemson’s orthopedic surgeon. ” I went into the coliseum and the game was going on. I went right to the bench and met with Dr. Clarkson. He told me what happened and we talked about what his rehab would be and how long he would be out of action.

“I then asked Dr. Clarkson, ‘Where is he?’ ‘Right here on the bench,’ was his reply. I couldn’t find him, then all of a sudden we looked up and he was in the game. Seeing we were in desperate times without him, Dale had taken off the sling, told Coach Ellis he was fine and went back in.

“That was incredible. He never missed a game that year. When you think about the pain he was in playing with a stress fracture as a junior and that dislocated shoulder as a senior, it was amazing.”

Davis finished his career as a three-time All-ACC player and an honorable mention All-American. He led the ACC in field goal percentage and rebounding consecutive years, the only ACC player to do that until 1995. He was a first-round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers in 1991.

This dedication and work ethic has carried over to his professional career. He is one of the most respected players in the NBA. He won’t sink three-point goals, or make a shake-and-bake moves like his teammate Reggie Miller, but he will go head to head with Shaq or Tim Duncan every night if that is what is required to win.

This past season he was chosen to the NBA All-Star team. His consistency in rebounding and field goal percentage helped the Pacers to the NBA World Championship where they forced the Los Angeles Lakers to a sixth game.

He enters his 10th season as the Pacers all-time leading rebounder and leader in field goal percentage. He is annually among the league leaders in both categories. Just as he is at Clemson, he is one of the most popular Pacers in the basketball crazy state of Indiana. Davis has been active in community service activities in Indiana and back in his hometown of Toccoa, GA. He has established the Dale Davis Foundation, which benefits economically at risk and disadvantaged youth in Indianapolis and Toccoa.

And, he hasn’t forgotten his Clemson roots. A member of IPTAY, Davis returns to Clemson whenever possible. A memorable moment took place during the 1996-97 season when he was presented his Clemson Hall of Fame plague at halftime of the Clemson vs. Virginia game by fellow Clemson great Tree Rollins. The presentation brought a standing ovation.

He will get another one today.