EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Ralph Davis, who played an instrumental role in UTEP’s win over Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16 in 1992, died in his home in Illinois on Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer, the family confirms to KTSM. Davis was 49 years old.
The Davis family says he has been battling stage four colon cancer for over a year.
A 6-foot-6 forward out of Illinois, Davis played at UTEP under Don Haskins from 1990-1994. Across 122 games as a Miner, he averaged 10.8 points per game in his collegiate career and is considered one of the all-time greats to dawn the orange and blue.
Former teammates became lifelong friends. Carl Davis and Johnny Melvin shared their memories of Ralph Davis with KTSM.
“He was a great player, great teammate, fun-loving guy, everyone loved ralph, just a nice guy,” Melvin said. Melvin said he urged Rus Bradburd to recruit Davis. He added he and other former teammates spent the day on the phone with one another after learning about his passing.
Carl Davis, played alongside Davis in 1993.
“Oh my God I was always telling Ralph he had a stride like Scottie Pippen,” Davis said.
Carl Davis knew Ralph when they were both in high school, both from Illinois. He said he went to play at UTEP because his friend Ralph was there. From their hometown to the hardwood, the two kept in touch until it was time to say goodbye.
“We were friends before we went to Texas so it’s like losing a brother,” Davis said. “Like I said before, words can’t really express how I feel.”
As a sophomore during the 1991-92 season, Davis averaged 7.2 points per game and scored 12 points in UTEP’s upset win over the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA Tournament to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. His most iconic moment came in that very same game when he knocked down a good measure jumper at the final buzzer to stun the Jayhawks, 66-60.
His senior year was his best, averaging 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Davis is survived by his wife Vernecia Gee-Davis, their son Chaz and their daughter Rowyn.