Tuesday, March 21, 2006 | The enduring names we’ll remember for San Diego State’s breakthrough basketball season that included a pair of Mountain West Conference titles and an NCAA Tournament appearance are Brandon Heath and Marcus Slaughter.
Maybe Mohamed Abukar and Richie Williams will be the Aztecs we’ll remember from future championships and postseason appearances.
But consider that Trimaine Davis is a man to admire and respect maybe more than any other for the 2005-06 season that ended with a 24-9 record following the NCAA first-round loss Thursday to Indiana.
Yes, Davis averaged only 4.0 points and 2.1 rebounds and started just seven games, but the 6-foot-7, 235-pounder has to be defined by more than his basketball career. Davis wants to influence young lives beyond his playing days that ended last week.
He wants to teach and coach high school students and athletes. He graduates in May but will stay in San Diego another year to earn his teaching credential.
“I want to go somewhere that I’m needed,” Davis said. “I know the dropout rates are too high. I was fortunate as a kid to have someone steer me in the right direction. But I know that for every one like me there are 100 kids without someone to steer them. I want to be able do to that.”
Davis isn’t an NBA talent, but you know who he is? He’s Coach Carter with an SDSU red-and-black education.
Remember last year’s movie “Coach Carter” starring Samuel L. Jackson as a high school basketball coach who demanded his athletes focus on education? The story takes place in Richmond, a tough Bay Area town not far from Pittsburg, another tough town where Davis grew up.
Davis has a similar strong persona that Jackson portrays in the movie. Have you ever heard Davis’ authoritative voice when he’s animated and making a point? Have you ever stood before his imposing presence? He’s Samuel L. Jackson in real life.
Davis says his desire to teach, coach and mentor dates back to his days on the Pittsburg playgrounds. He recognized the ratio of talented athletes on the playground didn’t correspond to the number of Pittsburg High athletes attending college.
“There are a lot of things that can steer you wrong in the Pittsburg area,” Davis said. “I was fortunate to have a grandmother (Vearis Calomee) and an uncle (Bruce Davis) to provide me direction.”
At SDSU, Davis wasn’t the scorer he was in high school when he led Pittsburg to a 24-2 record with 20.6 points and 14.7 rebounds a game. But even when he put up big numbers in high school he wasn’t starry-eyed about the NBA.
“From day one when (SDSU coach) Steve Fisher recruited me and came to my house and asked me what I wanted out of San Diego State, I told him an education,” Davis said. “He said, ‘I promise you if you work hard that will happen.’ He has been a man of his word. I was blessed to get a scholarship.”
Davis’s sense of history may be why he’s a grateful athlete in the era of the entitled athlete. He can trace his family tree to our nation’s pre-Civil War period.
“Who are my heroes?” he said, repeating the question. “My heroes are my ancestors who fought for freedom from slavery and freedom in the civil rights movement.”
Although Davis carries himself like a self-made man, he credits his college experience for shaping him.
“San Diego State helped me embody my ideas of who I want to be,” he said. “I have no regrets whatsoever about coming here. I couldn’t have come to a better place. I learned a lot from guys before me like Randy Holcomb and Tommy Johnson. This place is making my dreams come true.”
Davis won’t be on the roster next year, but his presence will continue to touch San Diego State’s rising basketball program. Fisher called Davis the greatest team captain he’s ever coached. That’s high praise for a coach with his history at Michigan.
“He’s a guy everybody wanted to lead us,” said Williams, the Aztecs’ freshman point guard from Steele Canyon High. “I see the way he is perceived around here and the way he carries himself. That’s how I want to be perceived before I leave here.”
Coach Davis, SDSU alum, has a nice ring to it.
Tom Shanahan is Voice‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at