A couple fun facts about Davidson shooting guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson:
- The Bachelor is one of his favorite shows on television
- He owns an East High Wildcats Troy Bolton jersey (from Disney’s High School Musical)
- If he’s in the driver’s seat, he claims to be able to get from Grindavik (his hometown in Iceland) to Rejkavic (31.8 miles away) in 15 minutes
- Allen Iverson is his favorite NBA player of all time
- He’s in contention for All-Freshman A-10
- BONUS! – He’s my roommate.
If you met Jon in passing, you might not think twice. His lanky 6-4 build lends itself to the appearance of a basketball player but in public he’s quite reserved, choosing to spend the majority of his time with his teammates, who double as his best friends. It is only when you hear him speak in his strong Icelandic accent that you would know he’s not your typical Davidson student.
The irony here, of course, is that Jon is one of six international players on this year’s Wildcat roster. Teammates Oskar Michelsen, Will Magarity, Nathan Ekwu and more come from all around the world, their home nations spanning the likes of Finland, Sweeden, Nigeria and more. This ethnically and geographically diverse assembly of talent models a the blueprint that head coach Bob McKillop has been pioneering over the past decade; recruit where nobody else is even looking: overseas.
It was through some of McKillop’s European connections that he found Jon, who spent a semester during his junior year of high school playing in Philadelphia. Gudmundsson, one of the top talents in Iceland, was a star on his country’s U-20 men’s national team this past summer that made it into the semifinals of the FIBA European Championship. Despite averaging 16.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.4 APG, very solid numbers on the international stage, his only NCAA offer had come from Davidson, a school now well-known globally for producing NBA phenom Stephen Curry. While nobody else in America noticed, McKillop took a chance on Jon and is now wasting no time shaping the young guard into one of the future cornerstones for Davidson basketball.
Despite being a freshman and having only arrived at Davidson this past August, Gudmundsson quickly became a staple McKillop’s starting lineup, and continues to eat up minutes at a pace of 31.9 per game. Throughout his first season at the Division 1 level, Jon has continued to develop as a scorer and ball handler, averaging 8.1 PPG and 3.5 APG. This places him in contention to make the A-10 All-Freshman team. Much of this success Gudmundsson accredits to his highly talented backcourt mate, Jack Gibbs.
“He’s been an incredible leader and he’s just helped me in so many ways.” Jon said of Gibbs. “I just want to do everything on the court like him and I’ll be a good player. I just want to enjoy this one year with [him].”
Although the team has struggled at times this year, posting a sub .500 conference record (12-11, 5-7 A-10), Jon holds onto hope that the ‘Cats could still make a run at the Atlantic 10 tournament this March in Pittsburgh.
“I think we’ve got as much talent as anybody,” he says. “All we’ve got to do is get hot.”
Looking beyond this year, Gudmundsson hopes to add to the legacy of star guards that Davidson has produced over the past decade. Curry, 2015 A-10 Player of the Year Tyler Kalinowski, and Gibbs have all set high standards within the program, and Jon knows he’s still got a lot of work to do to reach their level of excellence. This offseason, he says he wants to focus on his midrange game, which has been underutilized over the course of 2016-17. He also believes he’s capable of shooting better from three-point range (32.6% this season) and could become a consistent threat from deep.
As one of only two active players in the NCAA from Iceland, Jon has a substantial fanbase at home and on campus. A TV shot of the newly-dedicated “Section 30” in Belk Arena frequently features one of his hallmates wearing a blue and white “Jon Axel” Iceland national team jersey. On gamedays, his friends fly an Icelandic flag from our dormitory window.
But ultimately, Jon Axel is just one of the guys. He loves Cookout and McDonald’s, and has a sweet tooth for his favorite Icelandic black licorice. Legend has it that he’s still undefeated at NBA2K17 on our hall, but not for long. Sooner or later somebody is going to challenge him and Jon will be ready, just like he always is, to defend his place at the top. Push him, and he’s going to get even better.