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Nazareth's Christian Davis (left) shoots as he is being guarded by Carmel's Lee Bowen. | Michael Schmidt/For Sun-Times Media
MUNDELEIN — Friday was a night of firsts for Christian Davis.
Nazareth was on the road to face conference foe Carmel. Davis, a sophomore guard for the Roadrunners, had never played inside Salvi Gym at the Corsairs’ Mundelein campus.
It was also senior night, another new experience for Davis as a member of the opposing team. The normally raucous student section at Carmel was expected to be more hyped up than normal.
While Nazareth waited inside the visiting locker room for the sophomore game to end (it went three overtimes), Davis didn’t know what to expect. He got the answers he needed from several grizzled veterans on the Roadrunners roster.
“They told me how the crowd was gong to be, they said, ‘It’s going to be rowdy, don’t let it get in your head,’ ” Davis said, who stands 6-foot. “The other guys they’ve been there for two years and they know what it’s like.”
The inside information helped calm Davis, allowing him to focus on the task at hand. Along with sophomore forward Matt Prendergast, Davis was first off the bench to spell Roadrunners’ starters. An experienced team with five senior starters and nine total on the roster, Nazareth played with composure against Carmel, winning 56-47 and seizing the spotlight away from a home team that is also senior-dominated.
Perhaps taking the lead from their older, wiser teammates, Davis, Pendergrast and junior Austin Pomatto played not like frightened young men, but as if they belonged.
“We expect them to do that every game, to come out and play hard and give us minutes here and there,” senior guard Michael Brooks said, who scored a game-high 21 points and added eight rebounds and three assists against the Corsairs. “Christian’s been seeing a lot more minutes because he’s been playing hard.”
Davis is not averse to playing a level above his age. As a freshman, he was on the sophomore roster. He set a goal to make varsity this season, yet had the self-awareness to understand his reach might exceed his grasp.
So right after the high school season ended, he joined the Illinois Celtics, an AAU team based in Bolingbrook, last March. Just being around the ultra-competitive culture of AAU forced Davis to improve both his physical and mental skill set.
“There’s a lot of talent. Playing with guys on the (AAU) team makes it easier to play high school basketball,” Davis said.
And when Davis is asked to play extra minutes at either the shooting guard or small forward positions, he can handle the responsibility.
As the schedule stiffens in February — Nazareth hosts Parker Friday then plays Peoria Notre Dame on the road Saturday — expect Davis, Pendergrast and Pomatto to continue to be asked to come off the bench and provide quality minutes.
“We were happy to get (them) in (Friday),” coach John Bonk said. “We needed some breathers and they stepped up. We feel like we’re in good shape.”