Likeable Ralph Davis Left His Mark On and Off The Court for UTEP
This season, the UTEP men's basketball team will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Miners Sweet 16 team from 1992. It is the second most celebrated team in program history, only behind the 1966 National Champs. Sadly, a third member of that team is no longer with us. Ralph Davis, the Miners' 12th all-time career scorer passed away from colon cancer at the age of 49. He had been battling cancer for the last few years.
The 6'5 forward was a key part of UTEP's Chicago connection, a pipeline that began with Tim Hardaway and continued to produce players like Davis, Johnny Melvin, Marlon Maxey, Antoine Gillespie, and Carl Davis. He arrived to El Paso in 1989 at the age of 17 and he redshirted that season. Davis blossomed during his junior and senior seasons. He averaged 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds from 1992-1994 with the Miners and he quickly became a popular fan favorite.
While the Dream Team destroyed the field in the 1992 Olympic Games, Davis was a member of Team USA in the National Junior Olympics that same year. Following his UTEP career, he played professionally in France, Switzerland, Latvia, Portugal, and Sweden before retiring in 2002. He spent the last 20 years working at Robert Morris business college in Chicago as the Director of High School Relations and in 2014, he started his own trucking company, R2D3 Transport.
Rus Bradburd recruited Davis to UTEP and the first thing the former basketball player said to the coach was not to forget about him. He kept his word when high major programs began recruiting him prior to his senior year. The longtime UTEP assistant has fond memories of him on and off the court. "He was genial, pleasant, and polite," Bradburd remembers. "He called Coach Haskins 'sir' and he had that Catholic school upbringing where manners and decorum were so important to him. He transcended his background, growing up in K-Town, a rough neighborhood in Chicago."
Bradburd explained that Davis had a pretty good support system growing up in Chicago, with both parents at home and the young basketball prospect surrounded by good coaches. Rather than have him play at a high school known for its basketball talent, they sent him to St. Benedict instead to invest in his education. "Of all the kids we got in Chicago, Davis was the only Class A kid (small high school)," Bradburd admitted. "It was rare that someone would come out of Class A and do well at Division 1. The former UTEP assistant coach wonders how difficult it would be to produce another Ralph Davis in today's age of the Transfer Portal. College athletes now can transfer if they don't receive immediate playing time, or for any other reason. Not only did Davis stay with the Miners and work hard each season to improve his game, he was among UTEP's best students year in and out.
Long after his basketball career was over, Davis had a successful career in the business world. He raised his family and kept in touch with many of his former UTEP teammates, especially Melvin and Maxey. Davis was last in El Paso for the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Sweet 16 Team in 2012, and he spoke on behalf of the team. Not surprising, when you consider the type of person he was on and off the court. Davis is survived by his wife Vernecia Gee-Davis, their son Chaz and their daughter Rowyn. The Miners have lost another great one, but he leaves behind a lifetime of memories for fans, friends, and family.