Tori Davis had other things on his mind when he found out he had been picked for the 2017 Class of the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame. The Army captain was on Day 15 of a 21-day field training exercise.
“I was honestly in complete shock,” said Davis, who lives in the state of Washington. “Needless to say, it was definitely a welcomed bit of good news.”
Davis was on the other side of the surprise in 2003 when he led Open Door Christian School on an unlikely trip to the Division IV state semifinals that captivated the local sports community.
“Immediately after finding out, the first thing I did was contact my brother Thad and shared the news with him,” Davis said of the induction. “I honestly think he may have been more excited and proud than I was. Then my mind wandered to all of the amazing athletes I had played against over the years, and the gravity of this honor really set in.”
Davis hit the winning shot with 2.1 seconds to play to the give the Patriots a 42-41 win over Kidron Central Christian in the 2003 Strongsville district final to send Open Door to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. A week later Davis was the hero again, sinking the winner with seven seconds to play in a 44-43 regional final against Sebring McKinley that propelled the Patriots to Columbus.
Open Door’s dream season ended in the semifinal.
“Tori was a fun kid to be around, you can’t think about him without picturing his smile,” said Alan Januzzi, who coached Open Door. “The thing that really stood out about Tori was his humility, it was like a magnet that attracted the kids around him. Everybody on the team wanted him to succeed.”
“I remember going to watch the state championship game my sophomore and junior year with Coach Januzzi and a few of my teammates. We were in the upper deck and had a hard time making out what was going on,” Davis said. “Coach looked at us and said that if we want closer seats, then we need to make it to the finals ourselves. That was the challenge that fueled our run in the 2003 season.”
Januzzi said Davis spent a lot of time working on his game at the Elyria YMCA with his brother and his dad and would show up at school each fall greatly improved from the previous season.
“I don’t recall Tori ever getting angry. He just always went out and played for the love of the game,” Januzzi said.
Davis is the first athlete from Open Door to be inducted into the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame. Even with all the great moments on the court, it’s the memories he made off the court that have stayed with him.
“I’ll never forget the one-on-one games between myself and my teammate Aaron Freeman that took place after practice. We would go back and forth for hours just trash-talking and trying out new moves on one another,” Davis said. “Also the many dinners that the team spent together at Coach Januzzi’s house. We were all very close with him and his family. I remember playing against his son (Dominic) on a Fisher-Price hoop in their basement.”
Davis continued his basketball career at Baldwin Wallace, becoming the career leader in points, field goal percentage, free throws made and blocked shots, records he still holds more than a decade after his graduation. Twice he was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year.
“Playing at BW was one of the best experiences of my life. The people I met along the way and the relationships I’ve built with them will last for a lifetime,” Davis said. “After graduating from BW, I worked for a few years and then made the choice to follow in the path of my father, older brother, uncle and cousins and joined the U.S. Army.”
He has been deployed to three countries and traveled across the United States.
“I’ve had the opportunity so serve alongside some of the bravest individuals this country has to offer,” he said. “I take great pride in my military career.”
Davis is going through pre-deployment training in California and will not be able to attend the induction ceremony May 13 at the Spitzer Center on the campus of Lorain County Community College.
His wife, Emily, along with his parents, Dorothy and Thadus, will accept the award.
Although Davis said he has been playing basketball since he was able to walk and he still likes to get in a pickup game on weekends, he tried his hand at other sports while growing up in Elyria.
“I quickly realized baseball wasn’t the sport for me. It got so bad one season that I decided to retire the cleats and take up the position of batboy for the team. To this day, it remains the sport that I am the worst at,” Davis said. “I played some peewee football as well and really enjoyed playing quarterback. I was just athletic enough to throw the ball high enough that my brother could jump over the other kids and catch the pass. This made me look and feel like a superstar.”
Davis and his brother also earned black belts in karate at Mr. Dee’s Karate Academy in Elyria.
Davis not only remains grateful for the education he received at Open Door but for the relationship he forged with Januzzi.
“My relationship with Coach Januzzi extends far beyond the basketball court,” Davis said. “Aside from being an excellent coach, he is truly an excellent person. He was genuinely more concerned that we turned out to be good people, over being good athletes.
“He is a friend, a mentor and a role model to me even to this day.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.