He's been described as 5 feet 9 inches tall in heels -- one hundred and seventy five pounds draped in a wet blanket, after three Big Macs and a large order of fries. As uncooperative a cover as they come, Devan Downey is the most inspirational guard college basketball has seen since Allen Iverson.
Physically speaking he wasn't meant to play in the NBA, let alone the SEC; if he's even drafted after his college career concludes, it'd be a minor miracle. Crazier things have happened, though, and to doubt a player with Downey's heart is to often come out on the losing end.
In his last three games he's scored 99 points, including a 33-point effort against Georgia his last time out, which featured what's quickly becoming Devan Downey's trademark: a game winning shot.
On Jan. 26 Downey out scored, out hustled, and out played demigod John Wall in leading his unranked Gamecocks over the nation's number one ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Before the game began, few analysts gave South Carolina, specifically Downey, a chance at success. Responding to a question on Twitter that asked how many points Downey would score in the contest, Sports Illustrated writer and CBS college basketball analyst Seth Davis wrote, "Betcha it's less than 15. Cal will make someone else beat them."
What made the performance masterful wasn't the game-high 30 points scored on a myriad of crafty moves, or the 38 minutes of muscle aching exertion, it was the way his teammates mopped up the confidence that seeped out of their leader's pores.
Fresh off of three straight losses, the Gamecocks weren't exactly strutting around campus. Their last loss, against Florida, coming on a buzzer beating prayer from downtown just five seconds after Downey pushed his team ahead on a twisting lay-up.
After that game, Florida head coach Billy Donovan admitted to doubling Downey the entire game, "so basically his 36 [points] were on two guys."
For many Downey's story began against Kentucky. He charmed those who tuned in by driving a 69-inch sword through a dragon's heart. But that performance, of course, isn't page one.
He averaged a hypnotic 37 points, six assists and five steals per game as a senior at his hometown Chester High School in South Carolina. Catching notice of coaches across the nation, Downey climbed aboard Bob Huggins scandal driven bus in Cincinnati. In just his second career college game, Downey went 7-12 from the field scoring 21 points to go along with four steals on the defensive end.
He was named to the Big East All-Rookie team along with future standouts Sam Young and Jerel McNeal, but the brakes were pumped on his burgeoning college career when he chose to transfer after Coach Huggins bailed on the Bearcat program. Downey chose to go back home where he sat out the following season and patiently waited for his career to flourish.
Tough to swallow for a young man filled with such pride, Downey went out as a South Carolina sophomore and averaged 37.4 minutes, 18.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game. All led the his team and to nobody's surprise Downey was named a first-team All-SEC member.
The accolades kept piling up as his career continued: Honorable Mention All-American, SEC All-Defensive Team and Bob Cousy Award Finalist. Unfortunately his team's success didn't quite equal his individual accomplishments, as the Gamecocks failed to make the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.
Unless South Carolina can come up with a few upsets down the road -- beat Tennessee this week, finish off Kentucky on Feb. 25 and make a deep run in the SEC tournament -- the odds are stacked against them to qualify for March Madness once again.
Despite all of this, Downey is literally doing all that's humanly possible to send his team to the dance. In league play the 22-year-old has accounted for 46.2 percent of his team's scoring. He leads the SEC in points per game (22.4) and the entire nation in steals with just over three per game.
Downey is marvelous because he's rare; he's relentless because it's his only option. When a player of shortcoming combines with a high skill set, the result is unspecified precedence. Professional basketball has seen diminutive players triumph before, but much like the aforementioned Iverson, there's something special about Downey. The way he darts to his desired point on the court with little resistance, his gorge of offensive advancements that couldn't be imagined, let alone taught, by the most inventive basketball mind. He's a sailing catamaran gliding by three, four, sometimes five, buoys on his way to the bucket.
Should Downey be spurned by the all too cerebral decision makers who manage the NBA's organizations (as of today he's not projected by any of the top mock draft websites to be drafted) and the guard is forced to compete overseas, it'd be upsetting but not the grand finale. Downey's situation relates so strongly with the Bible's David vs. Goliath. And we all know how that ended.