WARREN - It was undoubtedly the strangest challenge Bill Kovach ever presented to a player during 21 years as the head basketball coach of the then Warren G. Harding Panthers.
Using a ladder, Kovach placed a dollar bill on top of a backboard at the old Harding gymnasium. He then challenged Monty Davis to pull it down.
No ladder was needed as Davis' reaching hand extended to about 13 feet to pull down old George Washington.
"When he was 6-4, he had a wingspan of 7-3 or 7-4," Kovach said. "No question about it; he could get up. He had long arms that went past his knees and he had the best eye-hand coordination of any player I ever coached."
DaMon William Davis, known as Monty to friends, relatives and fans, died Tuesday, June 4, at age 54. He will be remembered as the only athlete from Trumbull County to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft - 21st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1980.
Davis, who graduated from Harding in 1976, had natural rebounding abilities that stood out. As a 6-7 junior at Tennessee State University he led the nation in rebounding with an average of 16.2 per game. That figure has yet to be surpassed in the 34 seasons since that 1978-79 campaign.
"One game against Warren Western Reserve he had something like 33 points and 33 rebounds," Kovach recalled. "You weren't allowed to dunk in those days. He used to dunk accidentally."
Davis' NBA career was short-lived. He played one game for the 76ers in 1980 and one game during a 10-day tryout with the Dallas Mavericks in January of 1981.
Davis was the apple of the eye to many young children in Warren at the time he was drafted. The 76ers were a special team then with talents such as Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Darryl Dawkins, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney - the eighth overall pick in the '80 draft. For a short time it appeared as if Davis was going to be part of the mix.
"I remember when he came home after he was drafted and playing at Comstock Park on the north end," said Steve Arnold, who coached Harding basketball for 10 seasons and is now the football coach. "I would see Monty working out and you looked at him in awe. He was playing with Dr. J and Dawkins and those guys."
Kovach was instrumental in getting Davis into Tennessee State. He still remembers getting a phone call from then-TSU coach Edward Martin after Martin had viewed high school game tapes of Davis.
"He called me at two in the morning and said, 'Don't call anyone else because we want him,' " Kovach said.
Davis returned to the area after the NBA experiment ended. He eventually played on an AAU team sponsored by former Ohio State Representative Michael Verich. Among his teammates were Arnold, Badger High School and West Virginia standout Dale Blaney, Western Reserve star Jim Gilmore and current ESPN analyst Tim Legler.
The team advanced to the AAU finals one year. In addition, the Verich Reps would gladly play college teams looking for a preseason game.
Issues off the court kept Davis from developing into a great NBA player. Still, he was able to help others when the time came.
"He had a lot of promise," Arnold said. "Anytime you lead the nation in rebounding and are a first-round pick, that's pretty significant. What he should have been doing and what he did, you could say it was unfulfilled.
"I remember being at Rebecca Williams and going up to Monty. He would tell you that you need to do this or do that. He tried to tell you what you needed to be a better player."
Kovach expressed sadness when hearing the news of Davis' death. He'd like to remember the good times.
"He had some problems when he was younger, but he had a very kind way to him that not many people knew about," Kovach said. "He was always respectful to the coaching staff. I had no problems working with him."
Kovach has probably never looked at a dollar bill the same since that day in the 1970s.