Jaylen Nowell and Daejon Davis began their basketball journeys together, eventually going from Garfield to the Pac-12. Washington's game against Stanford will be just the second time they've ever faced each other.
Of course Jaylen Nowell called Daejon Davis, because he had to know.
The Washington Huskies freshman watched his brother — they’re not related, but the term aptly describes their relationship that predates whatever rivalry anyone tries to foist upon them — sink a miracle 50-footer as time expired to give Stanford a 77-76 win over USC last Sunday.
The shot — the Cardinal’s first buzzer-beater in 14 years — has been called the “Miracle at Maples Pavilion” and replayed countless times on cable sports shows.
Stanford @ Washington, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
“I talk to him every day, so I called after that and I asked, ‘Did you think that was going in?’ ” Nowell said, laughing. “He told me yes. And you know what, I believe him.
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“That just shows you the level of confidence that he has as a player. He’s always had that. From the very beginning.”
Nowell should know.
They began their basketball journeys together. Back in 2005, they were a couple of kindergarten boys at St. Therese School who fell in love with the sport and spent most afternoons playing at the Rotary Boys & Girls Club in Seattle’s Central District.
The game connected them like it does many kids. But their story is unique because the basketball prodigies supported, pushed and competed as teammates while rising past their peers.
On Saturday, their paths intersect once again in a way neither imagined two years ago when they signed scholarship papers to play for the hometown Huskies.
Nowell and Washington (13-4, 3-1 Pac-12) face Davis and Stanford (9-8, 3-1) at Alaska Airlines Arena in a 5 p.m. matchup between two early season surprise teams knotted in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.
“Of course it’s going to be a very emotional game,” Nowell said. “I’m the type of player that I don’t let emotions get to me. At the end of the day, I’m just focused on playing right and coming out and winning.”
It’ll be just the second time Nowell and Davis will face each other on the court.
On Jan. 9, 2015, Nowell scored 30 points as a sophomore to lead Garfield High School to an 83-67 win over Lakeside and Davis, who finished with 17 points.
Davis joined Nowell at Garfield, the reigning Class 3A state champion, the next season and they finished third and second in state tournaments as juniors and seniors, respectively.
“As far as basketball-wise, the sky is the limit for both of them,” said Daryll Hennings, the athletic director at Rotary Boys & Girls Club and director of the AAU basketball team, on the day Nowell and Davis signed with Washington on Nov. 9, 2016.
“They can go as far as they want to go. They’re both students of the game. Both great kids. Both love the game. Competitors and they both have a knack or a skill set that you can call special. Jaylen’s scoring prowess is special. It’s NBA caliber. … And Jon-Jon is multifaceted and versatile enough to play two or three positions.”
Nowell’s transition to college has been rather seamless for the 6-foot-5 guard, who scored a personal-best 32 points in the season opener and leads Washington in scoring while averaging 16.5 points per game.
He’s started 16 of 17 games and developed a reputation as a clutch performer late in games.
Meanwhile, Davis struggled early in the season directing Stanford’s offense.
The 6-foot-3 guard leads the Pac-12 with 67 turnovers, but he’s also averaging 9.9 points and 4.3 assists.
“He’s getting better and better and more confident as he goes,” coach Jerod Haase told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Defensively, he’s still making a few errors … (but) he can do some things that nobody else on our team can do.
“Offensively, there’s a poise and a presence about him. Obviously, still too many turnovers, but a confidence level and a composure about him that he didn’t have earlier.”
Davis, who tallied a season-high 11 turnovers in an 87-78 loss to Portland State on Nov. 26, didn’t commit a turnover in a game for the first time Thursday to help Stanford to a 79-70 win at Washington State. He finished with 15 points and four assists against the Cougars.
Davis’ homecoming rekindles memories of a star-studded collection of UW signees in 2016 that was ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN.
Only Nowell remains from the original group that included Michael Porter Jr., Blake Harris, Mamoudou Diarra and Davis. Nearly everyone left after the Huskies fired coach Lorenzo Romar.
“Personally I’m hurt because he’s a kid that I’ve known his whole life,” UW assistant Will Conroy said when asked about Davis. “You wanted him to come here and create his own legacy much like Jaylen.
“But there’s no ill will. I talk to Jon-Jon … (and) tell him what I see and where he can get better.”
Nowell gets protective of Davis, who has been attacked on social media by UW fans critical of his decision to spurn the Huskies.
“I felt like he was going to do what’s best for him,” Nowell said. “I’m not one of those guys who holds grudges. He felt like it was the best decision for him, and at the end of the day, that’s my brother before anything else. I was happy for him, and he’s doing really good down there.”
The familiarity between Nowell and Davis is going to create an interesting matchup Saturday.
“He knows stuff about my game that maybe their coaching staff doesn’t know,” Nowell said. “So it’s really going to be a fun game.”