Austin Peay point guard Khalil Davis knew his team would be called on Selection Sunday. It was a matter of when and who, and when those two mysteries were solved in the opening moments, a charge of emotion passed through Davis and all the way to his home in Kansas City.
The Governors would be the No. 16 seed in the South Region, the first-round opponent of the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, the team he grew up watching, respecting but not loving.
Not with a father, Tyrone Davis, who finished his college career at Kansas State.
“If we were going to play a No. 1 seed, I wanted it to be Kansas,” said Khalil Davis, who graduated from Grandview High. “Because of my dad, I’ve rooted for K-State, so this is something big for my dad and for me.”
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Big for Austin Peay as well. Huge, really. The Governors slogged through the Ohio Valley Conference schedule finishing 7-9, a four-game improvement over last season but not the stuff to feed postseason aspirations.
A fourth-place finish in the OVC West didn’t guarantee a spot in the conference tournament until Eastern Kentucky was defeated later on the final day of the regular season. Austin Peay entered the league tournament as the eighth and final seed.
But the Governors pulled off the impossible, four victories in four days, which included triumphs over No. 1 seed Belmont in the semis and second-seeded Tennessee-Martin in the final, and here Tyrone Davis was, a proud father, watching the final minutes of his son practice in front of thousands at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday.
“I can’t take the credit for Khalil, because he has busted his butt to get where he is,” Tyrone Davis said. “This team has worked its butt off. Khalil was supposed to be at home this week.”
Instead, he joins his father as an NCAA Tournament tandem. Tyrone Davis averaged 13 points and a team-leading 8.2 rebounds for the 1995-1996 Wildcats, who finished fourth in the final Big Eight season.
Elliot Hatcher was the point guard and Tom Asbury the coach for the team that was a No. 10 seed and lost to New Mexico in its first game. A dozen seasons would pass before the next Wildcats NCAA team.
Tyrone Davis had a couple of NBA tryouts, but with a family to support he opted for the guaranteed income of overseas competition. His travels took him to Japan, France, the Dominican Republic and Switzerland.
“If I was single, it would have been different,” said Tyrone Davis, who graduated from Ruskin High. “But I had a family.”
A young Khalil was part of that. He remembers playing ball with his father and brothers. Ronnie Boggs played at Jacksonville State. Younger brother Tyrese has played at Grandview and is expected to play in prep school next season.
Khalil Davis attended Lawson State Community College in Alabama out of Grandview and was chosen the state’s top junior college player in his second year. Dad was holding out for a Kansas State offer but it never came, and Davis landed at Austin Peay, where he has started all 65 games in his career.
“He’s kind of the glue to our team,” Governors coach Dave Loos said.
Davis averages 11.2 points, four rebounds and 2.8 assists. He had 14 in the victory over Tennessee-Martin and nothing would thrill him — and his dad — more than to deliver a big performance against the Jayhawks.
“I’m just so proud to be here,” Tyrone Davis said. “It’s surreal.”