Temple’s Mia Davis didn’t know hoops was her sport until a ball was put in her hands | College basketball preview
“I was looking for recruits,'' her middle school coach said. "I was looking at somebody else. I didn’t even know Mia could play basketball.”
There is no more annual field day at Baltimore’s Dr. Rayner Brown Elementary/Middle School because there is no more Dr. Rayner Brown Elementary/Middle School. That’s where it began for Temple basketball star Mia Davis, in her mind.
Davis does not know if she would have found basketball without that fifth-grade field day at a now-closed-down school. She’ll tell you the sport wasn’t on her radar until the day her class won the right to have a fun day, collectively scoring highest on a citywide test.
“I set up a basketball contest,’’ said Michael Whitten, a math teacher and administrator at the school, who also happened to be the girls’ basketball coach. “I was looking for recruits. I was looking at somebody else. I didn’t even know Mia could play basketball. I barely knew her name. She was always a dancer.”
The game was a version of knockout, in which everyone took shots, foul shots and close-in shots, until one player was left.
» READ MORE: The Inquirer's college basketball previews
“She’s beating everyone, easily, to the point the girls on the basketball team were like, ‘We’ve got to get her,’ ‘’ said Whitten, now a high school teacher.
Uh, Mia, can you come over here for a second?
Whitten couldn’t have known the rest of it, how Davis wouldn’t just star for his team and in high school,but also eventually be first-team All-Big 5 and All-American Athletic Conference last season as a Temple sophomore, scoring 18.9 points a game, second in the AAC.
When you’re officially listed at 6 feet, you’re probably a shade under it. … Except Davis earns the benefit of an extra inch or two. Here’s a guard averaging 9.2 rebounds, also second last season in the AAC, where No. 1 was a Connecticut forward, Napheesa Collier, who went on to be WNBA rookie of the year.
“Relentless,’’ Owls assistant coach C.J. Jones said. “You can’t take anything away from her. If you try to guard her on the perimeter, she’s going to take it to the hole, or post up. She’s going to outwork whoever’s in front of her. Whether it’s UConn or Fairfield, she’s going to bring it every night and outwork you like you’re the best player in the country.”
Where it all comes from, Whitten can offer clues. Davis was always his tallest player and dominated inside for a couple of seasons as the school won middle-school championships. But all the starters except Davis graduated. Her eighth-grade year, it was going to be a real young team.
“I had another guard,’’ Whitten said. “I was going to give the ball to the other guard and let Mia do what she always did. She came to me, ‘Mr. Whitten, I want to play point guard.’ I was like, ‘OK, but it’s going to take work.’ ‘’
To his shock, another middle school title came, and Davis said eighth grade was when she knew she might have a future in basketball, when high school coaches were in the gym to see her. Her dream was to play at storied Dunbar High, and she went for a year but then switched down the street to smaller St. Frances Academy, a dynasty of its own, where she was Metro player of the year.
“Mia is a sponge,’’ Whitten said. “She took everything. You need me to do this? OK. You need me to do that? OK. … I can’t even remember a time she ever talked back to me. I knew when she was mad at me, but she never said anything.”
Little has changed.
“If you walked by her every day, you would never know she’s All-Big 5 first-team, or first-team all-conference preseason,’’ said Jones, the Owls assistant. “She’s so humble, just a great person to be around. She’s like everybody’s big sister on the team.”
Her off-court speciality? Hair.
“I do all my teammates’ hair,’’ Davis said.
“Yes, most of them,’’ Davis said. “They text me every day, ‘Mia, um, you available this time, this time?’ … I’ll text back, ‘I’ve got tutoring so I’m going to hit you after. Sometimes I’ll be tired and go to sleep.”
Sometimes, that doesn’t matter.
“They just come to my room,’’ Davis said.
Braiding is a specialty, but she doesn’t keep it to that. “I’ll wash, blow-dry, silk-press it for them, or curl it. Different things.”
Does that relax her? Davis wouldn’t say that, she said, since she has to be on her feet. But it does keep her mind off other things.
Back to hoopss: Does she have goals?
“Win the conference, make it to the NCAA,’’ Davis said. “Maybe player of the year in our conference or the Big 5.”
Does she pay attention to her numbers at all?
“No, that’s one thing, I feel like, that can get you out of the game if you worry about your numbers,’’ Davis said. “It’s like, literally, I just go out on the court, play every game, whatever happens, happens.”
Whatever happens can surprise you. Note to all the middle-school teachers and coaches out there: Have a field day, for goodness’ sakes. You never know. And don’t discount the dancers.