Wisconsin’s loss to Iowa State on Sunday was a tough one to take for Badgers fans. UW had earned a No. 3 seed, its best seed since head coach Greg Gard took over in 2016, and the game was played in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an hour’s drive from its campus in Madison.
But it wasn’t just because the third-seeded squad was upset by the 11th-seeded Cyclones. It was also because it may have been the last game with its two top players.
The star has been sophomore Johnny Davis, a consensus first-team All-American and this year’s Big Ten Player of the Year. He averaged 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, and could very well enter the NBA draft this summer.
But the heart and soul of the Badgers has been Brad Davison. He just wrapped up his fifth and final season with averages of 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists over 34.5 minutes per game, the best statistical season of his career. He is Wisconsin’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (300) and career starts (157), and he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors this season.
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Any accomplishments he earned on the court, however, are not how Davison wants to be remembered.
“To be honest, I hope basketball’s not the first thing that people think about when they think of me,” he said when asked in the postgame press conference how he wanted people to remember him at Wisconsin. “I hope it’s about an interaction that we had or maybe a picture or an autograph or a conversation. I hope it’s something bigger than basketball or just me wearing the 34 jersey. I hope that’s how my teammates see me and my coaches view me as well, because those are the things I really value.
“I love the game of basketball but I know I’m not defined by my performance or wins or losses. I know where my identity lies. That’s what Scripture says about me, but that’s also what my teammates think about me and my coaches and my family and my friends. So I’m content, but with that being said, I just hope people remember me as a great teammate, great leader and great friend.”
Davison spoke more in depth about his identity in a recent video for YouVersion, the creators of the Bible app. He shared about the topic of identity for a four-day Bible reading plan called “On Mission To March Madness.”
“Basketball is a gift from God to me, but it’s not my full identity,” Davison began. “My identity comes from Scripture and my identity comes from what God says about me. So I get to wake up each day and know I am a child of God, a child of the Creator of the universe. It’s not because of anything that I’ve done or anything that I’ve achieved, it’s strictly because I have a God who loves me.”
He went on to talk about how, as a basketball player, he is often judged by how many points he scores or how many games his team wins. He said it would be easy to fall into a trap of finding his self-worth in those “worldly identities.”
“Going into every game, I don’t have to perform for approval. I don’t have to perform to try to be liked by everyone out there. But I have the opportunity to reflect and glorify God by the way that I perform, yes, but also by the passion that I play with, how I treat my teammates, how I treat opponents. There’s always something bigger than the game, because the game is not my identity, it’s just a gift from God,” he said.
The 22-year-old’s playing days are likely done, but he very well could have a future in coaching. He was like “an extension of the coaching staff” at Wisconsin.
Coach Gard said Davison has been “a coach’s dream.”
“He’s given everything and more than we’ve ever asked for,” Gard said Sunday in the postgame press conference. “You always know that he’s going to give you everything every day. His teammates follow that lead. He’s been a leader in our locker room since pretty much the day he walked in as a freshman or shortly thereafter and he’s helped set and maintain a terrific culture of how we have to do things every day, how you go about your everyday life. … He’s definitely left an exceptional mark on this program, past and future.”
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