Mia Davis caught the ball in the middle of the floor with her back to the basket and spun to her left for a quick layup, bringing her career total to 2,195 points and becoming Temple’s all-time leading scorer.
Fans in McGonigle Hall chanted Davis’ name as her teammates swarmed her and coach Tonya Cardoza called a timeout late in the first quarter to celebrate. Davis finished with 18 points, four rebounds, and a historical moment as her team beat Wichita State, 70-49, on Thursday. Davis has 2,208 career points.
“She’s so deserving, she’s one of the most unselfish kids,” Cardoza said. “She could have easily not come back for her fifth year or like others go someplace else, but it shows the type of person she is and her character.”
Davis broke the record previously held by Marilyn Stephens, who played for the Owls from 1981-1984 and scored 2,194 points. While Davis racked up a number of individual accolades, she credits a team effort for her success the past five seasons.
“When I [went] back and watched the games that’s when I found out stuff, so it was news to me,” Davis said. “I guess it means a lot. Thanks to my teammates for putting me in a great position and for pushing me to be the best, even when I was doing things well. Telling me how I can do things better and always being a listening ear.”
While Davis was named to the All-American Athletic Conference first team during all four seasons at Temple, she changed her entire career during one summer. After her first year, Davis prioritized development and went from averaging 11.2 points per game as a freshman to 18.9 as a sophomore.
“I’ve been focusing on the little things,” Davis said. “Taking my time, being patient, crashing for rebounds. I try to not worry about going into a game scoring just letting the game come to me.”
Davis has been a consistent presence for Temple since making that leap, leading the Owls in scoring for the past four seasons. Her performance also has garnered local and national recognition. The graduate student was named the American Athletic Conference’s preseason player of the year heading into her final year after averaging 17.7 points per game in 2020-21. She also started the season on the 2022 Cheryl Miller Award Watch List, which is awarded to the best women’s basketball forward in college basketball.
Davis has made good on those early expectations and produced big performances this year. She was named Big 5 player of the week on Jan. 31 following a season-high 26 points in a 75-67 overtime loss to South Florida on Jan. 22. Davis also had 22 points while helping the Owls overcome a 15-point deficit in a 68-64 victory against Cincinnati on Jan. 26.
“It kind of shows she can be really aggressive when she wants to be,” guard Emani Mayo said. “I feel like she always had that fight, like let me be aggressive and use my body so I could score this way.”
Cardoza relies on Davis to put up points for an Owls team that shoots 24.6% from three and hasn’t found consistent shooting from deep.
While Davis created history halfway through the season, she still has goals this season. She wants to lead the Owls to an AAC championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. After her career on North Broad, Davis plans to play professionally, whether that’s overseas or in the WNBA.
“Before I leave, I just want to turn it into a winning team and winning atmosphere,” Davis said. “I want people to know what it takes to win.”
Davis and Stephens share a similar outlook on the game. While each player earned a spot at the top of Temple’s record books, winning was their ultimate goal.
“I just wanted to win,” Stephens said. “I knew if I could get the ball it’s better for our team. I didn’t have to brag to anybody. My actions speak for themselves.”
Stephens couldn’t pinpoint the moment she became Temple’s all-time leading scorer but has a distinct memory of when she hit 2,000 points. She was three points away coming into a game against West Virginia and fans filled McGonigle Hall in anticipation.
That basketball journey started when the Philly native joined the Simon Gratz High School basketball team during her freshman year. Staples had another transformational experience when her high school coach Ina Newman sent her to a camp coached by John Chaney.
“When I walked in, I fell in love with the gym and at that moment, this is where I wanted to go to college,” Stephens said. “When I got to Temple, I was the only African American player on the team, but I knew this is where I wanted to go to school.”
Stephens developed a relationship with Cheney once she started playing for the Temple women’s basketball team. After practices, Stephens would do post workouts at the men’s facility with Chaney and former assistant coach Jay Norman. Chaney and Norman shaped Stephens’ scoring confidence and helped hone her footwork and rebounding technique.
“Going to coach Chaney’s practices and playing against the post players, who were 6-foot-9 to 7-foot tall, where I had to post them up and do moves on them, they would block my shot,” Stephens said. “Coach told me, ‘Don’t give up. So what they blocked your shot?’ If I can score against a guy that’s much taller then I can score against any girl.”
The former All-American still holds Temple’s record as the school’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,516.
“Sometimes people don’t get a chance to see it,” Stephens said. “You don’t get a chance to at least officially say, ‘I pass the torch to you.’ Mia’s worked hard, she deserves this and her teammates deserve it.”