Devan Downey Starts "Familiar Path" Toward NBA Dream
By: Eric SanInocencio
Birmingham, Ala. – For former SEC and South Carolina basketball star Devan Downey, the beginning stages of life in the NBA seem all too familiar to what he just left behind. "It reminds me of when I first started to try and make a name for myself nationally coming out of high school," said Downey. "I’m just this little guy out there trying to make a name for himself. It’s not an unfamiliar place for me."
Downey, whose storied career as a Gamecock reached the pinnacle of the collegiate level, is now back at the bottom of the ladder hoping to live his dream on basketball’s biggest stage. The 5-9 former All-SEC point guard now calls the NBA Summer Leagues home, as he recently signed a free agent contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Downey’s stature in Columbia and at South Carolina will never be questioned, as he will likely go down in the USC annals as one of the best guards to ever don the garnet and black. In just his senior season alone, the talented guard averaged nearly 23 points a game, including an epic 30-point performance against then unbeaten Kentucky in front of a national television audience. Yet despite a college career filled with numerous accolades, Downey now finds himself in a pool of players from all over the globe hoping to latch onto an NBA roster.
From the moment the final buzzer sounded on his collegiate days, Downey has embarked on the professional path, finding out first hand just what consists of becoming a part of the National Basketball Association. From pre-draft workouts to the team meetings, the Chester, South Carolina, native is without a home for the first time in four years. What’s it like? He explained.
"To me (the draft process), I didn’t like it. I’m the type of the guy that wants to know where I stand," commented Downey. "Throughout the draft process there is like a gray area, you really don’t know. You are doing all these things but at the end of the day you don’t know. So I didn’t really like that feeling."
The uncertainty along with familiar size questions allowed Downey to look back to previous experiences in the SEC, with success being prevalent despite doubts cast early in his career.
"When I first came to college, it was the size thing, the "he’s not big enough" questions that I’ve gotten my whole life. Now, I’m back to square one, having to prove myself all over again."
The talented shooter also credits the SEC for providing a competitive atmosphere, making him a better player and preparing him to compete against the best talent around.
"The SEC is so competitive; it is one of the few leagues that teams that are weak in a given year, they can still beat you," added Downey. "You have to work, because every night in the SEC you are going to get tested. Look at this year, we (South Carolina) weren’t as strong as we wanted to be, but we beat the number one team in the country in Kentucky."
He may find strength in numbers, as he’ll join a Sacramento squad that has familiar SEC faces in former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins, former Tennessee forward Wayne Chism and former Arkansas player Steven Hill.
As for what lies ahead, Downey’s history of defying odds leaves him a wealth of experience to draw from as the NBA summer season begins on July 12th.
"When I hear stuff like that (questions about size and ability), I don’t even pay it any attention," says Downey. "Ever since I’ve starting playing basketball I’ve been proving people wrong time and time again. My success has come from hard work, and I tell young kids this all the time, you get out what you put in."