By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
He might seem like a laid-back support player, but to his teammates Larry Davidson is one of the elite centres in the NBL.
“Laz is definitely up there,” retiring Hawks legend Glen Saville said.
“He knows the game very well, he’s very smart, can pass the ball. He’s a very well-rounded centre, very handy at the defensive end.”
Wollongong have kept two-thirds of opponents under their season average in 2012/13, and point guard Rhys Martin says Davidson is leading that charge.
“He’s the eyes of our defence … he’s very vocal in the middle,” Martin said.
“He doesn’t get every rebound, but he boxes out, gets tips and changes shots inside.”
What most casual observers know the 208cm Davidson for is his accurate perimeter shooting.
“Playing as a centre, he’s a target to put the ball into the post, but also with his versatility being able to shoot the ball,” Saville said.
“It stretches the floor a lot. Having big guys who can shoot the ball like Larry and Oscar (Forman) gives our guards the opportunity to do what they do best.”
When Davidson makes a three-point shot, the Hawks are 17-12 in the past three seasons, but just 16-32 when he doesn’t. If he makes more than one triple, Wollongong’s winning percentage rises to 88 per cent.
Davidson’s passing is also exquisite for a big man and a big reason players like Saville, David Gruber and Cam Tragardh have been effective in the post for Wollongong in recent seasons.
Martin thinks his laconic teammates’ high basketball IQ can help fill the hole left by the point guard’s season-ending knee injury.
“If he’s motivated and wants to push the guys for the rest of the year he’s just as valuable as a point guard,” Martin said.
From a talented family that includes his grandfather Herb Gilbert, a dual-rugby international, and St Kilda footballer Sam Gilbert, Davidson burst into basketball prominence by leading New South Wales to the 2001 U20 Australian Championship title and claiming tournament MVP.
While Davidson bounced around the NBL from the Hunter Pirates to the Singapore Slingers and eventually Wollongong, many observers believed his lack of work ethic stopped him achieving the star status and Boomers selection he was capable of.
But in recent years his teammates have noticed a big change in the 30-year-old from Gosford.
“He’s always studying and watching video to try to learn more. He’s really changed his attitude in the past couple of seasons,” Martin said.
“Since I've known him he’s come along in leaps and bounds,” Saville agreed.
“He has a very good element of professionalism with how he goes about the day-to-day stuff, which I don’t think he had in the past.”
For Hawks General Manager Mali Simic, this is vitally important now that Saville and Mat Campbell are watching from the stands.
“He’s got all the traits off Sav the last few years. Everything Sav was doing has rubbed off on Larry. He’s studying tape, coming in for extra work, got very professional about his diet, workouts and recovery,” he said.
“You can’t force guys to do that. He’s picked all that up himself.”