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February 13, 2013

The Making Of A (Near) SportsCenter Highlight

James Madison trailed Towson 22-20 when Devon Moore stole a pass from Jerrelle Benimon, dribbled into the open court and floated the ball up for one of two streaking teammates.

Freshman Andre Nation, a good leaper, filled the middle lane. A.J. Davis, a great leaper, zoomed in from the left wing.

Nation gathered his body, preparing to flush home a game-tying bucket, when Missile No. 0 exploded over him and Tigers defender Mike Burwell. For the sixth straight home game, Davis rocked the rim with a highlight dunk.

This one might have been his most emphatic effort.



"I'm a little mad, because I didn't know what Devon was doing," Nation said. "I thought he was throwing the alley-oop to me. I got dunked on. Can you please not retweet SportsCenter - none of that. I can't be on SportsCenter getting dunked on. That's crazy man. That was the craziest thing I've ever seen."

Sorry, Andre, the message was already sent.

A JMU graduate and former intern at the Daily News-Record now works at ESPN, cutting highlights and fulfilling other behind-the-scenes roles that help make the network the go-to spot for sports. After Davis put home a dunk against George Mason on Feb. 2, this friend sent a text message to me: "Already doing my best to ensure A.J.'s alley oop makes the Top 10," it read.

That play didn't make it - Saturday's are too full with action from other, high-profile games - but the jam was featured in a highlights montage on ESPN that night.

After Davis took down the rim again Tuesday, I texted the ESPN rep to put the dunk on his radar. A spokesman at JMU also sent ESPN the clip of Davis' dunk.

For much of the night, it appeared Davis would make the Top 10. But according to the source at ESPN, it was "a late scratch" because of a hockey shootout goal, and because of video quality. The Dukes' game, televised by Comcast SportsNet, was in standard definition rather than HD. That, apparently, can make a difference when ESPN is sifting through the very best plays for its visually stimulating countdown.

While Davis didn't get his moment on SportsCenter, he helped boost the Dukes in their 75-70 win.

"It helps our team," said JMU point guard Devon Moore, who grew up with Davis in Columbus, Ohio. "I mean, that just drives us. And then the next play, Andre got a dunk. I think stuff like that drives us. Them plays help us out and it brings our press [to a higher level]. We're doing 44 [the name of the team's base press] - it brings that up another level. It amps it up. When he's rolling like this and he's playing like this, I mean, it's crazy for us. It helps us out a lot.

"…Hopefully he'll keep playing this way, because we definitely need him. That oop: It's crazy. I'm used to it. I've seen it a lot. Now everybody else gets to see it. Hopefully he can keep doing it."

He's been doing it for the better part of this calendar year. He parted the lane with a two-hand slam against Delaware, tomahawked over an Old Dominion defender, and electrified the Convocation Center with several other big slams.

Where does Tuesday's rank for Davis? The 6-foot-6 swingman, who finished with 17 points, had little input.

"Just glad we got the dub," he said. "Glad we got the dub."


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