Maccabi Rishon Letzion may be only 3-5 this season but coach Adi Azoulai would hate to imagine where his team would be without Lucious Davis.
The well-traveled 33-year-old Davis is a quiet, steady and mature individual and a player whose consistently high level performance is the ballast that keeps Maccabi Rishon's ship on even keel.
The 2-meter tall forward is in the 12th season of a professional career that's taken him to Argentina, Italy, Japan and twice to Greece before arriving in Israel last season.
Davis was the Israeli Premier League's second highest scorer last season, averaging 24 points per game, and is currently leading the league in scoring with a similar average. But Davis is more then just a scorer.
"Lucious is an old-school player" says Azoulai. "He does everything needed. He scores, rebounds, passes well and defends and can play any of the five positions".
Rishon surprised many observers last season with a 14-13 record, and Davis was the biggest reason for the team's success, according to his coach. Azoulai says: "The team's turnaround in the past two seasons is mostly due to Lucious' leadership and hard work".
Davis, a native of San Jose,California played his college ball at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1988-1992. He was one in the line of star performers (most notably Brian Shaw) who helped coach Jerry Pimm put the previously unknown Santa Barbara school on the college basketball map.
In his senior year, he did for Santa Barbara what he is doing for Rishon today. Davis, according to Pimm, was the "glue" that held the team together and brought it success while he personally led the Big West Conference in scoring with 22 points per game.
The NBA career that Davis dreamed of never panned out, and he set off for Greece following graduation and was the third highest scorer in the Greek league in his first professional season.
After playing and traveling all over the world, Davis is content to be in Israel with Rishon. He could have signed a much larger contract to play elsewhere this season but decided to stay on.
"I have a great coach, great teammates and a team management that's done a tremendous job of helping me, my wife and my kids feel comfortable and content here," says Davis.
As a devout Christian, being in the Holyland has special significance for Davis. "It's awesome being here in the reality of the places I studied about in the Bible."
According to Davis, his best experiences have been in Japan and Israel. Rarely thought of as a basketball hotbed, Japan is, Davis says, a place where the fans are crazy about the game.
"Though I didn't make it in the NBA, I've been blessed in my overseas career", reflects Davis.
His coach Adi Azoulai feels just as lucky. "I've coached former NBA players like Gene Banks, Paul Thompson and Derick Hamilton but probably none were as good as Lucious," says Azoulai. "I hope in the rest of my coaching career to find a player even 70 percent as good".
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