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February 4, 2004

The California Kids

Seth Davis and Cory McJimson shook off the cold as they entered the RAC Arena on a gray, chilly November afternoon in 2002. The duo had arrived from Californiaand were taking their an official visit to UMBC to see if they wanted to consider continuing their academic and athletic careers 3,000 miles from home.

A tough sell, right?

Obviously not, because both student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent just a couple of weeks later, and have performed admirably for the Retrievers in the first half of their initial seasons in Baltimore. At press time, Davis has started in all 14 games, and the 6'7" power forward was third in the America East Conference in blocked shots through the midway point of the season. The 6'6" wingman McJimson comes off the bench, but leads UMBC with eleven games in double figures and is the team's leading rebounder at 6.1 per game.

So what made them come to UMBC?

They were both impressed by the campus, the academic program, the coaching staff's outlook and the vision of UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski. But,neither would have left their families, friends, and familiar lifestyle to come east without the other agreeing to make the journey as well.

"We both liked it a lot," said McJimson, who intimated that Davis did some convincing to get him to come. "I felt, 'we can do this together.' I would not have felt comfortable coming here, so far from home, by myself."

The two met on the courts during the spring after their senior seasons in high school. Davis added John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, while McJimson was enrolled at Eisenhower in the town of Rialto, about 30 miles away. Jeff Estis was the head coach at Pierce (Washington) College at the time, and convinced both that a trek north would be beneficial when preparing to enter the ranks of Division I basketball.

When Estis was hired by UMBC Head Coach Tom Sullivan several months later as an assistant coach, he knew immediately the California Kids could be very good players for the Retrievers. Both Cory and Seth came back to Baltimore during the second summer session and have only ventured back to California for Thanksgiving and Christmas for two days at a time. That has not been easy.

"It was fine for the first two or three months," admitted Davis. "Then I really began to miss my family and the lifestyle I enjoyed in California."

"It's really hard," said McJimson. "I've only seen my dad a couple of times in the past two years; before I was used to being around him every day. But I talk to my parents often, and my friends have been great, calling me nearly every day."

Assistant Coach Randy Monroe has been a great asset, as he planted the seeds upon their arrival in Baltimore by inviting the pair to attend services at the NewPsalmist Baptist Church (in Baltimore). The two enjoyed it so much that they decided to join and have attended nearly every Sunday that the team is in town.

"The message that is delivered every Sunday is very powerful, but one that can be put into practice in day-to-day life," said Coach Monroe. "It's great to see young people try to incorporate things other than basketball or the latest rap group into their lives."

"It (worship) keeps us level-headed and grounded-it's helped a lot," said Davis.

Although the duo has been major contributors in their first 14 games as Retrievers, each feels they are not close to having tapped their potential. "Defensively, it's been kind of hard to pick things up," said McJimson. "I'm doing alright, but the breakout game that I have been waiting for hasn't come yet."

"It's more of a mental game now," said Davis. "I am accepting this year as a learning year and am glad that the coaches have been patient with us. I know I have the ability, and eventually, I'll prove that I am a talented Division I basketball player."

Through all the adjustments that McJimson and Davis have had to make, the lone constant over the past two years has been their own relationship.

"I think they both saw the drive to be successful in each other," said Coach Estis. "Although they both had other 'best friends' when they came to (junior) college, the two of the team searched each other out because they were so positive in their energies as to what could accomplish and they bonded together even more when the opportunity to come to UMBC presented itself."

"He can tell me anything and I feel I can tell him anything," said McJimson. "We've been through a lot together in just two years. I consider Seth a brother."

Davis agrees with that assessment of their relationship. "We come from the same environment...The coaches and my teammates have done everything to make usfeel welcome, but I don't know if I could be here without Cory."

Retriever fans should be thankful that the California Kids are now calling Baltimore "home."

Posted by dwinds1 at February 4, 2004 12:00 AM