It was 21 years ago that Donnie Walsh drafted a scrawny kid out of Texas-El Paso with the 45th pick who was athletic and promising but wasn't yet strong enough to compete with the manly men who populated the NBA.
So Antonio Davis was sent first to Greece, where he toiled for two years for Panathinaikos, and then onto Italy, where he spent a season with Philips Milano. When he returned to the States in 1993, he was ready to play in the Indiana Pacers' frontcourt alongside Dale Davis and Rik Smits.
"When he left, he was a big tall skinny kid who could jump out of the gym. When he came back he was a big, strong guy who could jump out of the gym and was ready to run through a wall," Walsh recounted. "He came back a man."
The story of Davis' pre-NBA career merits mention for Knicks fans because Walsh brought his name up in discussing the status of Jerome Jordan, the second round pick (44th overall) of last June's draft, from Tulsa, whose rights were acquired in a draft night trade with the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for $500,000.
Jordan spent this past season with KK Hemofarm of the Adriatic League in Serbia, averaging 15 minutes per game in the domestic league and shooting 73.5 percent from the field (averaging 7.8 points), while also appearing in four Euroleague games and shooting 68.8 percent, averaging 8.5 points in just under 12 minutes per game.
In a normal summer, the Knicks would bring him back to the United States, see how he fared in summer league action and then make a decision on whether he should be allotted a roster space for the 2011-12 season. But this is not looking like a normal summer with a possible work stoppage on the horizon, and the Knicks are unsure what they'll do with the 7-footer after he reports back to the team's training facility in mid-June to meet with the coaching staff and members of the front office.
"We'll see where he's at, and we'll see where is is after that," Walsh told ESPN.com."We'll see if he wants to come back, and we want to take a look. My understanding is he's gotten bigger and stronger and was taking the ball to the hole, whareas in Las Vegas last summer he was tending to take shots fading away. I've only watched film, but he looked a little more aggressive."
As detailed in this blog earlier this week, the Knicks have an acute need for some depth at the center position with only Ronny Turiaf under contract for next season.
Jordan is recovering from appendicitis that required surgery a month ago, Walsh said, and Jordan is currently sitting out the semifinals of the Serbian League playoffs against Radnicki Kradujevac.
"It's good that he went over there and got a chance to play at a higher level, which improved him," Walsh said. "Being over there forces guys to grow up quick."
That quote was what prompted Walsh to recall the Eurostashing of Davis, who went on to have a productive 13-year NBA career that included a 36-game stint with the Knicks in 2005-06 before he was traded to Toronto for Jalen Rose, cash and a first-round draft pick that was used to select Renaldo Balkman.