If you passed David Downs on the street, he says you wouldn’t think “basketball player.”
And he’s not just any basketball player, he’s one of the greatest players in the history of Seattle Pacific, who also happens to be on the five-member academic all-American team.
Downs is finishing his career this month in the NCAA Division II tournament, and the second-seeded Falcons (26-5) open play at 2:30 p.m. Friday against seventh-seeded Stanislaus State (21-8) in an eight-team regional at San Bernardino, Calif.
“I think one of my advantages is that people underestimate me,” he said. “I don’t look imposing. I’m 6 feet 2 and I’m not going to jump over people.”
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But he sure can shoot over them, and go by them, too.
Enough so that he was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference MVP after averaging 20.2 points on 50.4 percent shooting, including 47.3 percent on three-pointers (79 of 167), and he gets to the foul line most often on the team, where he shoots 88.2 percent.
“I think he is a great example for what we want all our players to be,” said Seattle Pacific coach Ryan Looney. “He is a fabulous student, and an unbelievably efficient basketball player who conducts himself on and off the court in a way that is a great reflection on Seattle Pacific University.”
A four-year starter at point guard, Downs is third in school history in points (1,759), and second in assists (555) and three-pointers (242). He is just 18 behind career assist leader Robin Marshall and 17 behind three-point leader Jeff McBroom and could become the school leader in those categories if Seattle can advance at least a game or two.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, because I’ve been with these guys for four years and I know it’s going to end soon,” Downs said.
Downs said he can tell you every detail about hanging out with his teammates on car trips, and much less about what happened in games. This is a team that plays unselfishly and genuinely seems to like each other, and it all starts with Downs, the team leader who rooms with teammates Riley Stockton and Cory Hutsen.
“We’re just a bunch of nerds,” Downs said of his team. “What I mean by that is that we aren’t too cool to warm up the right way, to shoot the right way, to play the game the right way. No one is trying to get all the glory and we’re happy for each other. It’s easier going to practice every day when you aren’t worrying about who doesn’t like you or who is saying dirt about you. It’s a special group.”
That’s exactly what all-conference forward Patrick Simon thought after electing to transfer from Washington State two years ago.
“I knew that I wanted to play with these guys,” Simon said.
Downs can’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing basketball. The youngest of four kids, he always was trying to compete with his two older brothers, including Jeff, who was a senior for SPU when David was a freshman. Their father, Mike, coached basketball at Bellevue Christian, where David was a star and a marked man.
“I seemed to do better when we played bigger schools because they didn’t know about me,” David Downs said of high school.
That certainly was the case when Class 1A Bellevue Christian beat Newport in his junior year, and Downs scored 35 and was named a Seattle Times Athlete of the Week. Against Class 1A teams, foes designed defenses specifically to stop Downs. In his junior and senior seasons, Bellevue Christian reached the state tournament but lost to Vashon Island, which featured current Stanford player John Gage, who was Downs’ AAU teammate.
“I joke with my dad that I might be the only player who has better stats in college than in high school,” said Downs.
Downs committed early to Seattle Pacific and did not renege even after he started getting some other offers. His mother lost a long battle with cancer before his freshman year of college and he wanted to stay close to home and join brother Jeff, who is 21st on SPU’s career-scoring list with 1,079 points.
“It was really important for me to stay close to home and be with him,” David said. “It was really great that year and that is a bond no one can ever take away from us. He is amazing at keeping things light and not too serious. I am so driven and he was good at easing my nerves and letting me know that the moment is not as big as I think it is.”
For now, though, Downs wants to stay in the moment. He does not want to think about the end goal of winning a national championship. With just one defeat, his SPU career will be over.
The options are good for the next phase of his life. Downs, who was a valedictorian at Bellevue Christian, has a 3.8 GPA in accounting at SPU. He has received a job offer from Deloitte Touche after interning with the internationally renowned company last summer.
“It’s a great place and I want to be there eventually, but I have to pursue basketball overseas, whether it’s in Europe or Australia,” he said.
It would be foolish to underestimate his chances.
|SPU career points leaders|
|David Downs is third on the Falcons’ career scoring list, 38 points from second place.|
|SPU career assists leaders|
|David Downs is second among SPU’s career assists leaders and needs 19 to become No. 1.|
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or firstname.lastname@example.org