Bigger than Basketball Bryan Davis returns to Reed Arena to walk the graduation stage
After five years of playing professional basketball overseas and countless games competing on the courts at Reed Arena, on August 14, 2015, Aggie Hoops' Bryan Davis reentered Reed Arena with a different purpose, to graduate with his degree in agricultural leadership and development which he began working towards in 2006.
"I had a lot of chills and I actually felt nervous. I didn't sleep the night before graduation," Davis said. "It felt like I was getting ready to go play a game because Reed Arena was the place that I played so many games."
Upon immediately looking to his family, coincidently seated underneath the banner commemorating NCAA tournament trips from Davis' years at A&M, Davis said he felt reflective.
"It was so weird to me to be able to look up, to see myself and see all the things that I was able to achieve right there in that same gym and know that I was about to do something that was bigger than basketball which is getting my college education," Davis said.
Traveling internationally five or six times out of the year on average, Davis is constantly busy. His "break" was this summer while he was fulfilling the requirements of finishing school.
"Our goal is for every student-athlete that we bring in here to get a college degree, because here at Texas A&M, when you get a degree, you're getting something that means something," Head Coach Billy Kennedy said. "This is a real special place, we talk about that with our guys all the time."
To Davis, his Aggie degree means more than just an official, embossed certificate.
"It means a lifetime bond with a University that has a very strong tradition, it means family to me," Davis said. "I'm a very big family man, I'm strong in faith and I believe in that family." Davis said that the reason he came to Texas A&M in the first place was because of the family atmosphere and the way that older players treated him like a brother before he even committed. He notices the interconnectedness everywhere.
"You see Aggies every day," Davis said. "You see them up there on campus, you see them when they come in to a football game. When you leave A&M and come back, it's like you never left. Driving down Highway 6 to me it's still the same place as when I'm on my way to my mom's house. Coming to College Station feels like I'm on my way home."
Continuing on a journey of lifelong learning, Davis will play professionally for the Dinamica Generale Mantovana basketball team in Italy for the 2015-2016 season.
He is excited to experience the rich history of Italy, go to Rome as well as the Colosseum, and use basketball as an opportunity to learn, see the world, and help others out.
"I'm learning daily," Davis said. "I've played on another part of the world where it was either learn or go home."
He expressed gratitude for the support of his family especially his wife, mother, and uncle, Barry Davis, who is the current Director of Student Athlete Development for men's basketball and a Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Famer.
"I definitely want to thank my uncle for his effort and people like Mrs. Lee [Hood]," Davis said. "Mrs. Lee stuck with me, I can't tell you how many hours. I remember so many nights where it's midnight and I'm trying to go and Mrs. Lee was forcing me to do work.
"At the moment I didn't realize how important it was so I left and came back but Mrs. Lee and Garry Gibson at the Learning Center and the continuous encouragement from Coach Kennedy and his staff really helped me and made me follow through with what I knew I could do," Davis said.
Kennedy taught Davis that a little motivation can go a long way and Davis inspired Kennedy too.
"Bryan was persistent, he stayed the course and we admire him for that," Kennedy said.
Kennedy described the process of coming back as a marathon rather than a sprint. When student-athletes leave A&M without their degree, the basketball program strives for them to be within twelve hours of completing courses so when they return they can graduate in either one or two summer sessions.
"It's about doing the right things and being the best you can be," Kennedy said. "We expect our guys to work hard in the classroom, be accountable and that translates on the court because if we're used to doing that in the classroom, there is a good chance we'll do it on the court."
The future for Bryan Davis is full of excitement and adventure on and off the court. He wants to play professionally for seven more years, get into the coaching field, and be an example for others. He said it would be a lifelong dream to eventually coach basketball for Texas A&M.
"I don't know what it is and if you're not an Aggie it doesn't make any sense to you," Davis said with a smile in his voice. "But that place, it brings you back, something about it brings you back." For the upcoming season of Aggie basketball, Coach Kennedy will emphasize creating well-rounded players with a passion for the game and a deep commitment to academic success.
"We talk to our guys about being three-dimensional," Kennedy said. "If you invest in your spiritual life, invest in your academic and mental approach to how you do things, and you train yourself physically, then you have a chance to be complete.
"If you're complete, you're going to be a good player. If you're a good player you're going to have a good team and it all translates to winning championships and that's what our desire is here, get a degree and win a championship," Kennedy said. "Even more than an SEC Championship or a National Championship, that's our ultimate goal."