Freshman phenom: All-stater Davis bursts onto prep scene at Warren, topping 31-win Devils in scoring, assists and steals

How good is Warren Township freshman guard Jaxson Davis?

So good he’s the Captain of the 2024 Daily Herald Lake County Boys Basketball All-Area team — an extremely rare, if not unheard of, honor for a ninth-grader.

“Easy question,” wrote one Lake County boys basketball coach when asked who the top player in the tough North Suburban Conference was this year. “Jaxson is the only answer for this year … and probably the next three years.”

Davis, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and Illinois Media Class 4A all-state first-team pick, burst onto the scene and played a major role in the Blue Devils going 31-5 (tied for most wins in school history), sharing the North Suburban title with Lake Forest at 12-2 and advancing to a Class 4A supersectional appearance.

Davis averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 steals, while shooting 48% from the floor and sporting an impressive 2.83 assists-to-turnover ratio. Davis earned all-NSC honors in a league loaded with talent, including the likes of Daily Herald Lake County leading scorer Derek Bishop (Mundelein), Lake Zurich post player Anton Strelnikov, the Stevenson duo of Aidan Bardic and Jack Dabbs, and Lake Forest senior Tommie Aberle, who was named the conference player of the year (and will play football at Butler University next season).

Davis was all-tournament at Grant/Mundelein at Thanksgiving and at Proviso West at Christmas, leading the Blue Devils to the title there in one of the tougher holiday tournaments in the state. He led Warren in points, assists and steals this season.

And Davis was equally up to snuff against elite competition. In 11 games against teams that either were ranked in the final Associated Press Class 4A and 3A state polls, finished in the top four of the North Suburban (Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Stevenson) or played in the Class 4A state finals (Palatine), Davis averaged 19.1 points and scored 20 or more points in six of those contests, including a 31-point effort against Stevenson. He had 19 points and 6 steals in Warren’s tough 1-bucket loss to Palatine in the supersectional.

“Jaxson is a special player and person,” Warren coach Zack Ryan said. “He plays with a poise and maturity of a player much older than himself.”

Ryan pointed out Davis, as a freshman, was made a captain midway through the season.

“I think what set him apart this year was his ability to buy into the leadership aspect of his game,” Ryan said. “We made him a captain because we felt it was in the best interests of our team and program. That is a pretty rare feat to have, especially coming into a team that had a lot of experience coming back from last season.”

Davis, who plays for the Nike MeanStreets AAU team (alum includes the likes of NBA stars Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis) said the leadership aspect represented his biggest steps forward. “One thing I got better at was leading teammates more vocally and not just with my play on the court,” he said.

One would think from talking to Davis for the first time that he was a veteran of many high school hardwood battles.

“I was not nervous at all being a freshman,” Davis said. “I was ready and excited to play at the start of the season. There might have been a little bit of pressure, but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel pressure because I don’t understand why there would be pressure if you are playing the sport you love every day. To me, it’s another day of playing the sport.”

At the same time, Davis said he wasn’t a typical freshman on the varsity roster.

“I’m sure my experience on varsity is very much different than others who make the varsity as freshmen,” he said. “My guys took care of me and made me very welcomed. It’s been a lot of fun this season. I was around amazing guys the whole season. The upperclassmen taught me a lot and everybody was great to me.”

While Davis put up lofty scoring totals, he felt the best parts of his game this season did not involve putting the ball in the basket.

“The best part of my game is seeing the floor and seeing my teammates,” he said. “My on-ball defense also was good and taking care of the ball.”

That team-first mentality was again evident when Davis spoke of the importance of defensive excellence.

“I take huge pride in playing defense because I know if we play defense very well it will turn into points on the other end,” he said.

Ryan said Davis on the court is the same as Davis off the court.

“Jaxson is a great teammate, student and ambassador to Warren Township High School,” he said. “He is thought of highly among the teachers and staff at school.”

Warren sophomore guard Braylon Walker has been playing with Davis since grade school and isn’t surprised at what unfolded this season.

“He’s been playing up for a long time,” Walker said. “He’s been doing all of this since he was little. I knew he was going to do great things this season. Jaxson is such a good player because of his ability to do everything. On the offensive end he can get others involved with his high IQ. He sees the floor exceptionally well and can score at a high level. He’s a really good defender, too. He has the ability to guard the other team’s best player.”

While the accolades are streaming in for Davis, he knows the best is yet to come.

“It’s been great so far, but I’m not done yet,” he said. “I’m super excited about what the future holds. I keep working hard because there are guys out there who are going to catch up. I have to keep going to the gym and keep working.”

Walker added: “Jaxson has a lot of potential to get better because he has a great work ethic. He's always working on things to improve his game.”

Ryan explained there was a specific goal for the fab freshman this season.

“We spoke early in the season on how there will be times where he struggles this year,” he said. “The goal was to see how Jaxson would respond. He did it admirably.”

  Warren’s Jaxson Davis is the Daily Herald’s Lake County All-Area boys basketball captain. Joe Lewnard/
  Warren’s Jaxson Davis skies for a basket on a breakaway against Stevenson on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 in Lincolnshire. Joe Lewnard/
  Warren’s Jaxson Davis shoots a three-point shot against Libertyville in a boys basketball game in Gurnee on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. John Starks/
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