Life In The Lesser Leagues: Jermareo Davidson

Davidson handles the ball in a game in Qatar. (Sakka Akrem)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Professional athletes are in an exclusive group — the best of the best playing a game they love for a living. Most aspire to fulfill their dreams in the best leagues.

Baseball players dream of hitting a walk-off home run for a Major League Baseball team. Football players work towards their goal of making the NFL. Hoops standouts long for life in the NBA or WNBA.

For many who choose to pursue a career in basketball, the NBA or the WNBA is a goal to work towards, but not always something attainable out of college. Many travel overseas to play in leagues in Europe or Asia.

The level of competition may not be on par with the NBA, but the passion for the game is the same – a group of players working hard, trying to make a living with hopes of one day making it to the top.

Former Alabama standout Jermareo Davidson is well versed in that life. Davidson, who played at the University of Alabama from 2003 to 2007, currently plays for Al Rayyan, a team that plays its games in Doha, Qatar.

His journey to Qatar has been similar to many basketball players across the globe. He was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and began playing basketball when he was in elementary school.

“I first started playing ball around the age of seven or eight,” Davidson said. “My mother insisted I get into an activity because she worked three jobs. It was the end of football season when those demands were made, so next up was basketball.”

Davidson was raised by his mother in a household of three, and she encouraged him early on to focus solely on academics and sports. She refused to let Jermareo get a job when he was older, because she wanted him to devote his time towards school and sports.

As his love for basketball grew, so did his love for the NBA greats. Davidson says his favorite basketball player of all time is Michael Jordan. However, he idolized former Philadelphia 76ers point guard Allen Iverson as a young player and tried to model his game as a young player.

“I liked his heart, drive and love for the game,” Davidson said of Iverson. “I remember my brother played basketball as well, and he was a point guard.”I played the point guard all the way until my sophomore year of high school.”

That’s when Davidson hit a growth spurt. From the size of a point guard, Davidson sprouted to new heights which forced him to change positions. He finished his high school career as a post player and was recruited as a power forward or center by most schools.

Ultimately, he chose to play for then head coach Mark Gottfried and the Alabama Crimson Tide. “I chose the University of Alabama because it was close to home, and I had an opportunity to play right away as well,” Davidson said.

Gottfried inserted Davidson into the rotation early on, which allowed him to see action in 33 games his freshman year while averaging 5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The Crimson Tide reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before falling to the Connecticut Huskies, but Davidson says the experience is one of his most lasting memories from his time in Tuscaloosa.

As his college career continued, it became evident that he had the skills necessary to play basketball professionally.

“Once I became a college athlete my mentor brought to my attention how the NBA was the next step, and how I needed to prepare,” Davidson said. “At the time, I was just a college athlete enjoying college basketball.”

Following a sophomore campaign where the 6-foot-10 Davidson averaged 7.6 points and 7.9, he opted to enter the NBA Draft. However, he did so without an agent, which allowed him the opportunity to return to college if he went undrafted.

Eventually, Davidson pulled his name out of the draft and returned to college. His game continued to develop and he became an anchor in the middle for the Crimson Tide’s backcourt.

Davidson jumped from 7.6 points per game to 14.3 points per game his junior season and emerged as a leader for the Tide. During his senior season, though, he experienced one of the biggest hardships of his life.

“I had a very bad car accident where I lost my girlfriend at the time, Brandy Murphy, while visiting my brother in the hospital,” Davidson said.

Dewayne Watkins, Davidson’s brother, was shot in the neck by a group of teens in Atlanta in November of 2006. He later died of injuries sustained in the shooting.

Despite the tragedy, Davidson returned to Tuscaloosa to continue his senior season. He averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds and entered the 2007 NBA Draft. The Charlotte Bobcats drafted him in the second round and signed him to a two-year deal.

His journey professionally took him to two NBA teams, some NBA Development League teams and all across the globe.

“I’ve played in the NBA with the Charlotte Bobcats and Golden State Warriors,” Davidson said. “As well as the Idaho Stampede twice, which is where the Warriors pulled me up to join them the first time.”

Following his career playing stateside, Davidson took his talents overseas, playing in four countries.

“I played in Istanbul, Turkey; Samara, Russia; Frankfurt, Germany; Antalya, Turkey; and now Qatar,” he said.

Most of his days now are spent working on his game and competing with Al Rayyan. His free time is usually spent making 5

“I like to just be alone mostly and think, or spoil the lucky lady in my life,” Davidson said,  “But I also rap and make a small amount of reggae music.”

Davidson, who goes by Jayo as his stage name, has released two mixtapes since he began making music.

“My life is basketball, so I have no real time to promote it like I would like, so for now its just fun,” he said. “If something comes from it then I’m ready.”

CBS42 will be following Davidson and detailing his experiences along the way through his career as a professional basketball player.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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