After dropping four pant sizes, Javian Davis is fitting in with Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s a stack of clothes in the Davis household in need of a new home. The proud mother of two healthy boys, Kajwana Davis is used to her sons outgrowing their wardrobes. Although this summer her shopping needs were a little different.
Davis, the mother of Alabama basketball forward Javian Davis, watched as her son dropped 30 pounds this offseason as part of a 45-pound transformation since stepping foot on campus less than two years ago. The size 44 jeans that used to fit snug around Javian’s 6-foot-8, 287-pound frame now slide off his sleeker 242-pound figure.
“The clothes I bought him from the time when he was a little thicker, he tried to put them on and said, ‘Mom, they’re way too big,’” Kajwana said. “I was like, ‘OK, you’re really shaping out.’ This is good. He’s feeling better. He looks like he’s much happier, too.”
Alabama is pleased as well. Once thought to be a misfitted piece in first-year head coach Nate Oats’ puzzle, Javian is now an important part of the Crimson Tide’s plans moving forward. After redshirting his first year on campus, he’s worked his way into Alabama’s starting lineup following the loss of Herbert Jones. Through 22 games, he’s averaging 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while leading the team shooting 62.7 percent from the floor.
Javian’s road to weight loss wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t sweet. But 20 months after arriving in Tuscaloosa the once-chubby center finds himself on the right track.
Sixty minutes of hell
First-year Alabama strength coach Mike Snowden remembers Javian being a shy kid during his first few workouts this spring. Then again, it’s hard to say much between gasps for air. Upon arriving in Tuscaloosa, Oats and his staff provided Alabama players with a rude awakening of how practices would be run under the new regime.
The introductory workout was infamous for leaving Crimson Tide players “a little gassed and worn out,” as Oats put it at the time. In Javian’s case, that was a drastic understatement.
“It probably was the tiredest one-hour practice I’ve been through in my life,” he said. “(Oats) had just first come in and it was an hour, so I thought it’d be light, good. But all his drills were like back-to-back, no breaks, nothing like that. Those were all running, offensive stuff, so it was very tiring.”
Shedding weight had been a priority under former head coach Avery Johnson. In fact, Javian reached his goal weight by dropping 15 pounds during his redshirt season. Although, as the forward put it, the emphasis on slimming down “wasn’t near as much as it is now” under Oats’ fast-paced attack which currently ranks No. 3 in the nation averaging 75.5 possessions per 40 minutes.
Javian suffered a knee injury upon arriving at Alabama which led to the former three-star recruit sitting out his first year on campus. After Oats and company replaced Johnson’s staff the following spring, there was a belief among some that Javian would fail to find his way onto the court in the new system and might be nudged out the door before ever hitting the hardwood for the Crimson Tide.
“After the first week, I had thoughts that I probably wouldn’t be able to play here and I’d have to think about transferring,” Javian said. “But school was still going, and I just wanted to finish the semester and see how things go. Then I went through the spring which was kind of like up and down. Then I went home and got my mind right.”
The transfer portal offered no guarantees as Javian’s year away from the court left him without college tape to show to prospective teams. Although, what proved even more influential in his decision was the nagging feeling of unfinished business he had left in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“It was kind of my own process, like this mindset that I just needed to get better,” Javian said. “I wanted to improve, and I wanted to prove myself to the new staff. So I set out to do that the whole summer.”
Javian’s destination was not going to change, but his diet was about to take a new direction.
Before coming to college, Javian says a typical breakfast consisted of eggs and grits or French toast sticks. That was followed up with a small hamburger and an order of chicken nuggets with fries for lunch. Dinner often came from a drive-through window as well, but what really weighed him down were the snacks of chips and candy he downed between meals. According to his mother, Javian’s biggest vices are Starburst and chocolate chip cookies, especially the chewy kind.
“The toughest were probably the candy and chips,” Javian said. “You grow up eating candy and chips every day. That’s probably the part that was hardest for me.”
Alabama sports nutritionist Amanda Branson has been around enough athletes to know old habits die hard. Instead of a highly-regimented meal plan of set dishes, she drafted up a dietary
playbook for Javian, first finding out the restaurants he frequented most before paring down the menus for acceptable items.
The result was essentially a spreadsheet of approved meals with an emphasis on quantity control and fuel timing. Javian had certain basic daily goals: 2800-3000 calories, 350-360 grams of carbohydrates and 150-160 grams of protein. However, the plan revolved around the big man’s ability to make his own choices to avoid getting burnt out.
Branson said a popular go-to meal at the beginning of the process was steak, mac and cheese and broccoli from Southern Ale House. However, Javian’s favorite fast food joints such as Popeye’s, McDonalds and Wendy’s were still very much in play, albeit in moderation.
“We didn’t want to change too many habits at once,” Branson said. “That way it was the same familiar restaurants he’s used to, but maybe we’d only do one fried and one grilled chicken sandwich instead of two fried chicken sandwiches and fries.
“A big part of it was that he was willing to listen to me. Javian deserves all the credit for his body transformation. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about portion control, but if he doesn’t actually choose when he’s at the drive-through then he doesn’t see the results.”
Javian took the spreadsheets to heart. Not only did they come in handy at drive-through windows but also in supermarket aisles back home in Canton, Miss. Kajwana admits her son played a part in blocking a few grocery items from her shopping basket this summer.
“When we pick up things, he’s always looking at the back of it,” Kajwana said. “He’s like, ‘Mom, Amanda told me we can’t have these.’ He knew what was good for him and what wasn’t, and he made sure to pay attention to that.
“His dedication was 100 percent. When he came home he had a goal he was set on, and he never strayed from it. It was shocking to see he was following that plan so well. It just showed how much he wanted this.”
An improved diet was only half of the equation. Javian also held his own version of two-a-days back home, waking up early to get a workout session in before hitting the gym again later in the day with his 13-year-old brother Jamarion.
“I just got in a fitness gym every day, got some running in,” Javian said. “I got some weights in and tore my body up. It was hard at first, but it was good because it was like inspiring just losing weight every day.”
A much-slimmer Javian returned to Alabama a month later much to the surprise of his new coaching staff. Oats gushed over the redshirt sophomore back in June, calling him a “gym rat” while stating he’s “done about a 180 since he’s got here.”
The new physique paid off two months later during Alabama’s team retreat at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Ala. The military-style boot camp saw Crimson Tide players participate in a series of strenuous activities, including long outdoor runs — something which Javian used to dread during his high school days due to the strain they put on his knees. However, under his knew weight the two-mile jog over mixed terrain wasn’t an issue.
“I was kind of like in the middle of the pack, not like the back like I was during high school,” Davis said with a smile. “I felt good about myself, and it gave me some added confidence. I feel very confident in my size.
“Just being able to run at a certain level and still rebound and defend. I feel like if I’m good on my body then I’m already having plans on what I can do after the season to improve on things. I’m growing every day with my game and my body.”
Carrying a lighter load hasn’t just helped Javian get onto the court, it has also played a major role in him staying on the floor as well. Last month, the forward experienced an injury scare as he landed awkwardly on his right knee during a game at Vanderbilt. Javian had to be helped off the floor. However, an MRI later revealed that the injury was just a bone bruise.
“If I was the same weight as last year, it probably would have been a worse injury,” Javian said. “This year with me losing all that weight, it probably helped me from falling on it too hard.”
Alabama will look to rely on Javian in the coming weeks, especially until Jones returns from his fractured wrist at the end of the month. The now-fit forward has started the past two games, averaging 9.5 points while making all seven of his combined field-goal attempts against Arkansas and Tennessee.
Earlier this week, Oats praised Javian’s drive for improvement, stating the two broke down film together following last week’s loss to LSU. There are still parts of the forward’s game which need some polishing, particularly his offensive rebounding and ability to keep out of foul trouble.
Both will be particularly important as Alabama (12-10, 4-5 in the SEC) looks to snap a three-game losing streak as it travels to Georgia (12-10, 2-7) on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT. For Javian, that means a matchup against 6-foot-9 Rayshaun Hammonds, who ranks No. 5 in the SEC averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.
Just another opportunity for the Alabama forward to prove he’s right where he belongs.
“I take each and every game personally,” Javian said. “For me, it’s just about stepping up to the challenge and taking my opportunity and going out there and proving myself, my coaches, my teammates and my fans. I’m looking forward to it.”