Eli Davidson and Ian Kahn were still far from high school age the first time they talked about it.
“We’ve been dreaming about winning state since we were sixth-graders,” Kahn said.
That they were students at Bosque School, and that they played basketball, didn’t seem to be working in their favor. But they were resolute. This, they told each other, could work. Would work.
“Ian and I, since the day we got here, we said, ‘We’re gonna make it when we’re seniors, and we’re going all the way.’ That’s just been our mentality,” Davidson said.
Hope Christian, Sandia Prep, St. Pius, Albuquerque Academy and Menaul – all these private schools have played for a state basketball championship. Multiple times, in fact.
Bosque School, where soccer and tennis have usually shown the way in the athletic department in the form of state titles, is a conspicuous absentee from that list. But the Bobcats (12-2), ranked No. 2 in Class 3A behind defending state champion Hot Springs, are hoping to finally reach that next level this season.
“We’ve built a belief in these kids that they can compete with the best teams in the state of New Mexico, not just our 3A opponents,” said Bosque’s third-year head coach, Clifton Davidson, Eli’s father.
“We started changing that a few years ago. We started talking about going to state, winning at state, competing at the state level. Most of the people at this school didn’t believe we could.”
That pessimism was not entirely without merit, as in the years before Davidson took over the program there had been some lean seasons. Bosque School has been in a few state tournaments, but never has been beyond the semifinals (2010), and that single piece of data is going to be a tremendous hurdle for the Bobcats to try and clear.
“In the past, we’ve been a team that everyone knows they should beat,” said Kahn, a senior guard/forward. “Like when me and Eli were eighth-graders, freshmen, sophomores … we were always the team people would schedule senior night against.”
But the Bobcats, who were a 9 seed at last year’s 3A state tournament, are attempting to evolve. This starts with the change in mindset.
“I remember when I took the job, part of my discussion with the administration was, if you want to compete and have a chance to win, then I’m the coach,” Clifton Davidson said. “If you want things to continue as they have, then I’m not the guy.”
Not surprisingly, not everyone was on board among the athletes. But three years later, Bosque is elbowing its way into the discussion, even though the Bobcats must realize all the good fortune required to win a championship.
On the floor, the 6-foot-4 Eli Davidson, who already has signed with Western Colorado in Gunnison, averages 22 points and 12 rebounds a game and will be a integral component to Bosque School’s second half of the season.
“We know he’s capable of scoring 35 or 40 points if that’s the role we need him to be in,” his father said. “But his best contribution to our team is the other guys believe in him, and he’ll lead us in a positive way.”
Clifton Davidson says Bosque School has the talent to make a deep run in March. Guards, shooters, bigs – in the form of 6-6 Wyatt Vanmeter – and depth. What they lack is a final-day-of-the-season appearance in Dreamstyle Arena, which might be the single biggest challenge ahead as the cauldron of state tournament pressure in March can suck the oxygen out of some teams, especially schools that have never been that far.
“We have all the pieces,” Eli Davidson said. “We have shooters, drivers, players who can work in the post, we have it all. We can make it happen. It’s everyone’s job to make sure it happens.”
Kahn said it goes even deeper.
“I just want to prove a lot of people wrong,” he said. “People who doubted us and hated on us, made fun of us.”
Their sixth-grade pledge remains very much in play.