The shift in conference means a lot more than an alteration of schedule, opposition and playing venues. For Davidson, the move from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic 10 has encompassed all that and more. A step from low to mid-major to a conference rightfully considering itself as a respected high-major.
“Looking at the talent of the Atlantic 10 has been a real eye opener,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said recently. “It is something to see what (talent) these schools actually have.”
McKillop has said the style of play employed under his watch for years will not be altered. Davidson will find an adjustment in their new surroundings. The feeling is, that will come in the area of facing an A-10 with their existing talent and, of utmost importance, procuring new talent.
McKillop and staff have logged the off-season hours addressing recruiting. One constant the Davidson mentor refers to is name recognition. “We mention the Atlantic 10 affiliation,’ Mckillop says, “and there is an interest on the part of recruits and prospects.”
Davidson enjoys a solid tradition in its own right. Twenty or more victories in eight of the past ten seasons. There’s the combined cherished memory and heartbreaking setback in 2008. Then, Davidson nearly advanced to college basketball’s final weekend, being edged by Kansas in a thrilling regional final. Stephen Curry, a star on that 2008 club currently lighting up scoreboards for the Golden State Warriors, is recognizable. “No doubt,” McKillop added, “If Steph (Curry) has a big night, it’s on SportsCenter, his name is out there and we benefit from the name recognition. It is like free advertising.”
Recruiting is vital and for the future. Presently McKillop will bank on a pair of backcourt reliables in Tyler Kalinoski and Brian Sullivan to ease the transition in conferences. Last season Sullivan, a junior, canned a team-leading 90 three-pointers, shooting 38 percent from downtown. The senior Kalinoski hit 46 percent from beyond the arc and dished out 111 assists. The pair helped lead Davidson to a 20-13 mark, a Southern Conference regular season title and an NIT bid.
The consensus among A-10 mentors is McKillop knows his way around the grease board and can X and O with the best. The league coaches concede the Wildcats will have growing pains. Regardless, A-10 mentors are not thrilled with facing a team with Bob McKillop on the opposition’s sideline. “When you face a Bob McKillop team,” Dayton’s Archie Miller said, “you know you will face a team ingrained in toughness and discipline.”
Transition, “growing pains,” adjustment – call it what you will. The season is approached with an air of uncertainty. There is also an excitement permeating the small North Carolina school. Davidson, and McKillop, can’t wait to get started.