Downs Leads Falcons into Regional in Final Season
David Downs is averaging 20.2 points per game and his 3-point field goal percentage of 47.3 is second-best in the GNAC.
David Downs is averaging 20.2 points per game and his 3-point field goal percentage of 47.3 is second-best in the GNAC.
Downs captured GNAC Tournament MVP honors after helping SPU defend its 2012-13 title with a 65-62 win over Western Washington on Saturday.
Downs captured GNAC Tournament MVP honors after helping SPU defend its 2012-13 title with a 65-62 win over Western Washington on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

PORTLAND, Ore. – Maybe it was the back-to-back 3-pointers – one coming from the top of the key and the other from a nearly identical location five feet further back – within the span of 23 seconds in the second half to give Seattle Pacific its first lead since the second minute of the 2013-14 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball Championship Game.

Or maybe it was a 5-point turn around in a 30-second span five minutes later that helped seal the win over rival Western Washington. 

The examples are just two snapshots from a highlight-filled senior season by GNAC Player of the Year David Downs, but he proved why he was the lone unanimous first-team all-conference select and that he stands on a tier alone with his performance in Saturday’s 65-62 title-clinching win over the Vikings. 

Downs scored 26 points to lead all scorers, several more than his GNAC-third best season average of 20.2, as he and the Falcons successfully defended their 2012-13 GNAC title.

“The last two years we lost to them in the regional finals and it left a sour taste in our mouths,” Downs said regarding his history against WWU. “That was not fun, and it made us work that much harder during the off-season.” 

Downs’ success on the court stems from a combination of natural talent and a set of intangibles that are rarely possessed let alone harnessed and mastered.

There are times that Downs cannot miss, such as the aforementioned series of 3-pointers. That is his natural ability; the type that allows him to take over a game at any given time. 

Then there are his intangibles.

They were displayed on Saturday when Downs stood en garde in his defensive pose, an eerily-calm and concentrated expression overtaking his face as he trained his eyes on the dribbler at the top of the key. It was as if Downs was paying no attention to the player he was marking, but his senses and seemingly-360 degree peripherals allowed him to leave more of a cushion than a normal player would while guarding just as effectively if not more so. 

“I knew in high school that I was good enough to play at the collegiate level, but I didn’t really feel like I could compete the way I have until my freshman year of college,” said Downs.

From backyard shoot-arounds with his older brothers, to learning the ins and outs of the game from his father, Downs seemed destined for a successful career. Both his father Mike and his brother Jeffrey played basketball at SPU, and helped mold him into the player he is today. 

“I started playing pretty much as soon as I could walk, and my dad was a high school coach for 32 years,” Downs remembered about his first encounters into the basketball life. “He has always told me that the only motivation that means anything is something that comes from within. A competitive desire.”

It was that very competitive edge that motivated Downs to be unique and originally reject the idea of attending SPU. He wanted to prove he could make it wherever he chose and could succeed under any set of circumstances.

“I always said I would never go to SPU, because I wanted to be my own person and didn’t want to follow in (my brother’s and father’s) footsteps,” Downs said.

But the reason he chose SPU in the end is ultimately what ties into perhaps his greatest asset as a basketball player overall: unselfishness. The summer before his freshman year of college, Downs lost his mother to cancer. “My mother passed away that summer after battling all throughout high school, and I just wanted to stay close to home,” Downs said.

It was at that time Downs adopted the SPU crimson as his own, making the decision to remain close to his family during the toughest time of their lives.

On the court, Downs excelled sooner than expected as he was inserted into the starting lineup midway through the season. “I felt pretty comfortable at the beginning of the year because my brother was a senior on the team and he helped me to learn the new fast pace of the game,” Downs said regarding his first collegiate campaign. “I got thrown into a starting role and was forced to have confidence, and when it was time for me to step up my instincts took over.”

The first hint that SPU had a special player on its hands came in the first round of the regional tournament, when the eighth-seeded Falcons squared off against top-seeded rival Central Washington. Downs and SPU stunned a sold-out Ellensburg crowd, as the freshman scored a game-high 22 points to push SPU to a 76-63 win.

“That was the game of my life,” Downs said about the playoff upset. “We played well and it was one of the first times in college where I felt that I really played at a high level.”

The standout performance was the first of many to come, and three years and countless athletic and academic awards later, Downs and the Falcons are on the cusp of yet another regional tournament. This week, SPU enters the NCAA West Regional as the No. 2 seed, marking the 10th-straight year the Falcons have earned a spot in the regional playoffs.

“Our ultimate goal is to win the regional, but at this point we are just taking things one game at a time and trying not to look too far into the future,” Downs said of his team’s preparation for Friday’s first-round matchup with Cal State Stanislaus. “There is a real lack of ego in our locker room, we all genuinely like each other and don’t care how we win as long as we win.”

In the locker room Downs spoke of, there’s the NCAA leader in 3-point field goal percentage in Patrick Simon (51.0). There’s Riley Stockton, whose uncle John is in the NBA Hall of Fame and whose 3.5 assist-turnover ratio is fourth-best in Division II. There’s head coach Ryan Looney whose 118-32 career record over five seasons gives him a career .787 winning percentage.

Holding it all together is Downs, whose ability to be the player his team needs him to be time and time again will forever etch his name into SPU and GNAC basketball history. “It goes back to me and my two older brothers playing one-on-one in the back yard,” Downs remembered fondly. “I have always been around the game. I have always had a desire to be great at it.”