LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There hadn't been much of a history of success for men's basketball at Bellarmine before they hired Scott Davenport in 2005.
In the previous 55 seasons, there had been five seasons with 20 or more victories and nine appearances in the NCAA tournament. Davenport took over a nine-win team in the 2005-06 season and went 14-14, 12-15 and 17-11 in his first three seasons. In the ten years since then, the Knights have averaged 29 wins per season, been to every NCAA tournament, four Elite Eights and won a national title. And this year, they are 14-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.
The numbers tell the story of sustained excellence. It is the people that have made it happen.
"Coach has created an incredibly high standard," assistant coach Beau Braden said. "I would be shocked if there's anybody else in the country that recruits character, work ethic and passion for the game as much as we do."
"He's never veered away from what he thinks is important," said Davenport's assistant coach and son, Doug Davenport. "That's unselfishness, hard work, humility. If you think you're bigger than the program, it doesn't work."
"I can say we watch film, and we prepare and recruit. I can say all those things," Scott Davenport said. "The one reason that trumps everything for the success and the constant move forward — the greatest recruiters in the program are the players because other great players want to come with great people and great players."
They are very discerning recruiters. It is definitely not just about playing the game. Scott Davenport said he learned from the best: University of Louisville legends like Denny Crum, Bill Olsen, Jerry Jones and Rick Pitino. He feels the ability to judge talent is one of the lost arts in the game, and that's as a person, student, player and as a teammate.
"It's impossible to measure how much emphasis we put on recruiting in terms of the person we're recruiting," Scott Davenport said. "Then we judge talent and not where they are but where they can go. So many players want you to become them. We want players who want to become us. There's a big difference."
And he relies on those in the program to help confirm that the right guys keep coming in.
"When I came on my visit, Rusty Troutman was my host," said 2017 graduate Al Davis, who came in from a junior college. "After bowling with Rusty, Coach D asked 'Is he one of our guys?' And he said 'Yes sir. He's one of our guys'. And that's how it is. You just know."
"It took me until about halfway through my freshman year to buy in," said Troutman, also a 2017 graduate. "That Coach D knows what he's doing, knows what he's talking about, and if I just listen and buy in, I'll take everybody with me. The sky's the limit."
Davenport can certainly teach the game. He has embraced more pack-line concepts to improve the defense in recent years, and his offense has always produced a blur of passing and moving and selflessness and efficiency enough to make purists cry. Bellarmine has not been below 50 percent field goal shooting as a team in the last decade. During that time, they have been no worse than ninth in the country, and they've been No. 1 in field goal percentage four times and are there again midway through this season at 56.4 percent.
The players learn, and they pass it on to the younger players. And that goes for former players like All-American Braydon Hobbs, part of the 2011 title team. The 2012 national player of the year is now playing in Europe's highest league, and he keeps in touch with some of the current guys, like this year's All-American candidate, Adam Eberhard.
"I still talk to Braydon," Eberhard said. "He says, 'Don't take anything for granted.' He's playing professionally, making good money. One thing he wishes he could do is go back and play college basketball, saying it was the best time of his life. I'm trying to slow things down a bit and realize what I'm a part of."
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