Former Denmark-Olar High School basketball player Larry Davis never imagined a two-season stint with the University of South Carolina men's basketball team would earn him a permanent spot in the Gamecocks' history books.
Despite leading USC to its first conference championship in 1997 and being a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection, Davis said he was surprised to hear that he was being inducted into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Perhaps he thought some would hold it against him for choosing to play his first two collegiate seasons for North Carolina and Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith, helping the Tar Heels win the 1993 national title.
“I was really shocked about it, when I got the call,” Davis said of his USC Athletics Hall of Fame induction. “I thought somebody was playing a prank on me.
"I had to pinch myself to see if it was real.”
While the news of his selection was unanticipated, the 1991 Mr. Basketball for South Carolina -- who averaged 44 points per game as a prep phenom -- admitted he understands the mark he and the USC teams on which he played made in the program’s history.
He credited the coaching staff, his teammates and former members of the program for their roles in his career, leading up to his induction in late September.
“Although the induction is an individual accolade, I felt like I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and the people prior to me reaching the point of playing at South Carolina,” he said.
One person who wasn’t surprised by Davis’ induction is former USC head men's basketball coach Eddie Fogler. He believes Davis, who averaged 17 points per contest in two years with USC, is “very accomplished” and deserves to be honored for his contributions.
Davis' scoring mark of 1,068 points is the second-most ever scored by a two-year player for the Gamecocks.
Fogler, who spent eight years coaching the Gamecocks, said Davis was a “natural-born scorer,” a winner, and a key member of the team.
“I think Larry’s being humble when he says he was surprised,” Fogler said. “I don’t think anybody at the induction thought he didn’t belong, because he certainly did.”
Davis, who spent nearly a decade playing overseas, also gave credit to the people who supported him well before he played in college or professionally, his family and members of his community.
“There’s a lot of people, [especially] family members that played a part in it,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without any of them.”
The former D-O Vikings basketball standout, acknowledged that his family played a key role in his development. But there was another person who was crucial in helping him mature on and off the court, his former high school coach, Ernest Nimmons.
“Look at what [Nimmons] did for me over the course of my high school career,” Davis said. “He prepared me to be a young man on and off the floor. It was monumental for my development.”
Davis said Nimmons became somewhat of a father figure for him. He understood the coach had his best interest in mind and Davis always felt that he could talk to him about anything.
“A lot of people look at the basketball part of it; but you have to look at the situation,” Davis said. “At one point in time, I was a young man from a small town and he instilled a lot of trust in me. [He] gave me a lot of freedom and allowed me to grow as a man and as a player.”
Davis said his time at D-O “molded his career” and prepared him to play basketball at the next level.
While playing for the Vikings, Davis averaged more than 44 points per game through his last two seasons on the high school level. He still holds the state record for most points in a single season, with 1,162 points in 1991.
“Being in a situation where you’re under the spotlight, a lot, puts you in a position where you have to perform,” he said. “It taught me how to be humble and accept my critics as well as my recognitions.”
After high school, Davis played two years at the University of North Carolina under head coach Dean Smith. He won a national title with the Tar Heels in 1993 before transferring to the University of South Carolina.
Though his playing career has come to an end, Davis continues to stay around the sport through coaching, training and mentoring young players.
After playing overseas, Davis started coaching at Lewisville High School where he led the Lions to a Class A state championship in 2013. He later went to Northwestern High in Rock Hill before serving as an assistant at Newberry College. Most recently, he was the director of operations at James Madison University.
Currently, Davis is working independently to help develop young players of all ages from all over the country. However, his main focus is working with high school players.
“I’ve worked with kids as young as 5 years old all the way up to players who are in college or playing overseas,” Davis said. “[But], I love to see the maturation of young players, both on and off the court. I’m just trying to help them reach their potential.”
Davis reached his potential when he was a player. Gamecock fans remember, and he is in the hall of fame because of it.