This interview was very important to me. I had been trying for nearly a month to set it up. Finally, today, Marc Davidson and I were able to speak on the phone. I'll give you some background first and then I'll link the podcast episode below.
Marc Davidson was the reason I did not travel to the Big Ten Tournament while positive for Covid-19. I had set up an in-person interview with him on that Thursday of the BTT (I had planned to drive from Champaign to Fort Wayne for the interview and then meet Tyler in Indianapolis that Thursday night). But because Marc is dealing with stage-4 cancer, and because I had what I thought were allergies acting up, I got tested for Covid just to be super safe before meeting with him in person. Sure enough - positive for Covid. I had to cancel our interview and spend five days in the guest bedroom.
He and I texted several times in the weeks since and finally found a time to talk today. I had asked if we could talk on Monday, but he could not do that due to a trip to the hospital for more blood transfusions. I immediately felt awful about pushing for an interview while he had blood transfusions to schedule.
But it was important that we talk. I wanted to tell him how I reference players having "Marc Davidson moments". His best game in an Illini uniform was the one NCAA Tournament victory during my years in Champaign, and I've often referenced him when writing.
And that goes back to the early days of the blog. Here's a post from 2010 (previewing a game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament) where I first referenced a Marc Davidson moment:
So for the 4th consecutive game, I think it might be win-and-we're-in. Again. The business we should have taken care of against Tubby at home can now be taken care of against Bo. One, hard fought, high energy, everyone-channels-Chester-Frazier win and we're likely in. This deplorable school year of Illini sports might find it's redemptive moment. It's well past midnight, and I can't stop thinking about it.
Is it a Dominique Keller three? You know, one of those "no, Dom, don't - no, no... YES" things? Does Dom Keller get his moment in Illini history like Marc Davidson in the 1993 tourney game against Long Beach State? Does Tyler Griffey come off the bench and hit a few Jack Ingram Wisconsin Threes? Is this the game where Brandon Paul finally decides "you know what? I'm the best athlete on the court - why don't I just jump over people?" Does Demetri not want the season to end? Will 2008 Big Ten Tournament Mike Davis show up?
I've referenced him a few other times over the years (including a podcast where I was recapping 1990's Illini basketball) because that game has always stayed with me. The four minute Omar Payne outburst in the Nebraska game in January? That was a Marc Davidson Moment. An MDM.
Davidson averaged 10 minutes per game during the 1992-93 season. But in that NCAA Tournament game, he played 18 minutes and pulled down six rebounds, four offensive. I have this very specific memory of a second-half offensive rebound and put-back that has stayed with me the last 29 years. We had just enough in that Long Beach State game (against Lucious Harris and some guy later linked to Michael Jordan named Byron Russell) and we pulled out the 75-72 win. Davidson had 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists (one I know was a rebound and kick-out to Richard Keene for a three) and the 6-seed Illini moved on to face 3-seed Vanderbilt in the second round. We won't talk about that game.
A month ago, I saw the following segment from BTN The Journey about Purdue freshman Caleb Furst and his high school coach, Marc Davidson, who was battling cancer. Before listening to the podcast, find eight minutes to watch this clip:
I found his email address and immediately contacted him because I wanted to tell him of my Marc Davidson Moment writings over the years. How an Illini player can stick with me for decades based on one single moment. Arias Davis against Michigan State in 1998. Joe Bertrand against Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Steve Roth at Penn State.
We finally connected today and I was able to tell him of how I've referenced him over the years. The podcast is below. He's very open an honest about everything, from his struggles on campus as a sophomore (leading to his departure) to his current cancer battle. But I found myself quite inspired by his attitude and his faith. I hope you will be as well.