Some great players are born, some are coached.
Some, such as South Carolina’s Kaela Davis, benefit from both.
Davis inherited a lot of talent from father Antonio Davis, who played 903 NBA games, and he was also her best coach. The 6-foot-2 junior, now at South Carolina after becoming a star at Georgia Tech, put everything into an arsenal that aims to keep the Gamecocks at the top of the SEC.
“My dad has been one person that’s really helped me in just saying, ‘Hey, you’re a bigger guard, let’s work on post moves or whatever the case may be,’ ” Davis said Tuesday at USC’s Media Day.
It’s finally time for Davis to suit up after transferring in May 2015 and sitting out the NCAA-required year. An all-ACC guard in each of her first two years who was the fastest player in Tech history to breach 1,000 points, it was painful for Davis to sit out the 2015-16 season, especially when she knew she could have helped USC win its last game.
But that’s why she came. She had success at Tech, but not as much as she wanted. What USC coach Dawn Staley was doing just three hours away commanded her attention.
“I want to be able to compete at a really high level,” Davis said. “I want the opportunity to play for a national championship. With that in mind, I think South Carolina was the place to do that.”
Davis was a prolific shooter and scorer with the Jackets, and the presumption is she slides into the spot vacated by Tiffany Mitchell. Staley has already credited Davis’ versatility – she’ll play shooting guard, but can slide to power forward or play point – and that goes back to her father’s teachings.
A good player surrounded by great talent, particularly when he joined the mid-1990s Indiana Pacers, Antonio Davis learned while honing his own formidable skills. He used the same process with his daughter.
“From the time she was little, she had no fear,” the elder Davis said this summer during the S.C. Women’s ProAm. “A lot of it comes from the confidence where you know you put the work in. Those aren’t shots she hasn’t practiced. I’m never going to jump on her about taking a bad shot, because she’s practiced so much that she doesn’t take bad shots.”
Kaela grew into the best guard in the class and the No. 2 prospect in the country, and then an immediate starter in college. Yet after a freshman season ended in a first-round NCAA Tournament loss, and a sophomore year resulted in the WNIT, she wanted a change.
“It was just one where she was sitting around during NCAA (Tournament) time, deep in the run, and kind of sitting there watching instead of playing,” Antonio said. “That was probably just a small part of it, but she’s been a competitor all her life. She’s won AAU national championships, she’s won a lot of stuff. To be in that situation, it was one of those things where she just wants the next challenge.”
She has it. The Gamecocks were 33-2 last year, but know they left a lot of goals unfulfilled. It’s a different team this year, with an all-star crop of forwards in Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson, but Staley will need her guards (fellow transfer Allisha Gray will also be a large part of the team) to fill what USC lost.
That led to if Kaela would be happy not shooting 20 times per game, as she did at Tech.
“That’s not even something I want to do, honestly,” she said. “Now that I’ve done it, that is nothing I want to do.
“When you have 6-4 and 6-5 sitting down there, you’re not going to just let them sit down there. When you have that, you want to utilize that. It’s making all that work. We have a lot of pieces to work with this year.”
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The Davis dynasty
How the USC guard is following in her father’s path:
6-2, Junior, Guard
Hometown: Suwanee, Ga.
High school: Buford, where she was ranked as the No. 1 guard and the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2013 class by ESPN
College: Played two seasons at Georgia Tech, earning All-ACC honors in both before transferring to USC
College: UTEP (1986-90), played under coach Don Haskins
NBA: Pacers, Raptors, Bulls and Knicks (1993-2006)
Career stats: 9,041 points; 6,755 rebounds; 889 blocks
Family: Kaela has a twin brother, A.J., who plays basketball at UCF