Simi Valley's Jonathan Davis draws plenty of attention

SIMI VALLEY -- Those in the know, namely Division I basketball coaches and scouts, do not agree on many things when it comes to recruiting. Seemingly everyone has their own system, their own idea on how to properly identity a potential prospect.

It's far from an exact science.

One topic most evaluators tend to agree on is this: Ventura County has not been considered a hotbed for high school hoops talent in the past.

Every once in a while, there is an exception. And when it comes down to illustrating such a notion, no one has recently done it better than Jonathan Davis from Simi Valley. Plain and simple, the powers that be could no longer ignore the senior.

“Out in Ventura County, I don't know if we get much respect. There are a lot of guys out here that can play though and I'm one of them,'' Davis said.

Indeed he is. It probably explains why the 6-foot-7 wing player was receiving varied levels of interest from programs in the Pac-10 Conference and had scholarships offers from schools such as Hawaii, Southern Methodist, Texas El Paso and Utah.

Ultimately, he decided George Washington was the best fit. Davis sealed the deal with a commitment to the Colonials in early September.

“I have a chip on my shoulder, I want to prove I can play just as well as anyone,'' Davis said. “My goal is to go out there and get after it, make some noise.''

He has done just that this season, make some noise.

Davis is averaging 18.7 points and 10.5 rebounds, to go along with 2.5 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals for Simi Valley (19-7 overall), which will learn its opponent for next week's Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs on Sunday afternoon.

As far as the postseason, the Pioneers will most likely go as far as Davis takes them in a bracket that figures to be loaded with talent. Four teams in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings loom large, among them being: No. 10 Mission Viejo, No. 12 Huntington Beach Edison, No. 14 Anaheim Canyon and No. 16 Ventura.

“Jonathan has learned to put the team on his shoulders, we've been begging and begging him to do it too,'' Simi Valley coach Christian Aurand said. “We gave him a blank check and told him this is your team now. He's stepped up and picked up the pace. It took him a little bit of time to feel comfortable in those shoes, but he feels comfortable now.

“With Jonathan, you look at pure numbers, you look at the fact that he's the only Division I-signee in the county, there's a reason behind that. I think it's because he is the best player out here, if you asked other coaches, I think they would probably choose him too. ... He's highly regarded, and for a change, that's nice to see from a Ventura County kid.''

The road to to get to this point has been long for Davis, often times frustrating, particularly during his initial year at Simi Valley. He enrolled as a 6-5 freshman, and with his size, it was thought that he was capable of making an immediate impact.

That, however, was not the case.

Davis had his work cut out for him.

At the time, Lorne Jackson was the big man on campus. The Pioneers were his team, with no questions asked. Not surprisingly, the senior point guard did it all, and then some. He averaged 23 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals per game.

Meanwhile, Davis watched from the bench.

The same type of scenario played out during his sophomore season. Only this time, Brad Lewis commanded most of the spotlight. Also an upperclassman, he was a perimeter specialist and averaged a team-high 25 points for Simi Valley.

Again, Davis' role was not truly defined, although he did show glimpses of his immense potential. He ended up playing, mostly second fiddle, and averaged somewhat respectable numbers with 7.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and two blocks per game.

Once Jackson and Lewis moved on to bigger and better things at Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara, respectively, the door was wide open for Davis to assume added responsibility. He took advantage of the opportunity in front of him as a junior and emerged as a much-needed leader for Simi Valley, to the tune of 16 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“We had no idea what he had on our hands, but Jonathan came out and blew us all away in terms of his presence on the floor and his ability to impact a game,'' Pioneers assistant coach Ryan Moore said. “He gets most of the headlines, he gets most of the stats, he gets most of the attention from our staff and from other staffs, and he's handled things well.''

With his senior season approaching, things appeared to be heading in the right direction. Nevertheless, Davis was not about to take any chances with his future. Playing at the collegiate level was his goal and taking measures to insure success were necessary.

Accordingly, he looked into his options on the travel ball circuit this past summer. When the chance to once again join well-respected AAU program such as Double Pump Elite presented itself over this past summer, he jumped at the chance.

Exposure was at premium, of course. His teammates included Southland standouts Spencer Dinwiddie from Woodland Hills Taft and Brea Olinda's Kyle Caudill, as well as Xavier Johnson from Santa Ana Mater Dei and Valencia's Lonnie Jackson.

Surrounded by several high-profile recruits, Davis still managed to distinguish himself. His time in a Double Pump Elite uniform served him well, better than he could have hoped. Suddenly, colleges were well aware of his name.

To his credit, Davis has done a decent job of maintaining his new-found lofty status, which has not always been an easy task. Opponents enter games with the understanding that if you stop him, there is a possibility you stop the Pioneers.

“Jonathan Davis is a great player, he's one of the best around here,'' said Rich Endres, coach at nearby Marmonte League rival Thousand Oaks. “His game is well-rounded, he's tough to contain. There's a very good reason he is a Division I player. ''

Given his overall body of work, one has to wonder if Davis has done anything to change the perception among Division I coaches and scouts -- at least temporarily -- with regard to Ventura County not being considered a hotbed for high school hoops talent.

“I like to mix things up and get people thinking,'' Davis said.

Apparently so. Mission accomplished.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.