A course mapped long ago

Basketball: The countless hours Courtney Davidson spent around, and then on, the court as a seventh-grade ball girl are paying dividends for the Navy women's team.

January 22, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Courtney Davidson was a seventh-grader growing up in the Pennsylvania foothills, she served as the ball girl for the high school boys team, coached by her father, Jeffrey.

When the game ended, she had a ritual.

"While I was waiting for the guys to get their showers and dress, I'd be on the court shooting around," said the Navy sophomore. "I loved doing that."

Nothing has changed. The leading scorer and nationally ranked sharpshooter for Navy's women's basketball team still loves to be on the court and shoot around.

"She'd be in the gym 24 hours a day if she could. You want to have 15 of those kind of people," said Joe Sanchez, the Midshipmen coach. "Her strength is her offense, and she's a go-to player with a little bit of a fiery attitude. I like that."

Sanchez had no qualms about starting Davidson and three other freshmen most of last season when his roster was ransacked by graduation.

Davidson thrived. The 5-foot-10 guard became only the second plebe in Navy history to lead the team in scoring, made the All-Patriot League second team, and was on the all-rookie squad.

"When you're coming into college, you wonder if the coach is going to give you an opportunity to play," said Davidson, who is from New Oxford, Pa., near Gettysburg.

"Coaches have different attitudes about that. But Coach Sanchez had no problem with it. If all of us play together all four years, we're going to be a pretty good team."

The current team, buttressed by the sophomore nucleus, still experiences growing pains. After an 8-3 start, it has dropped six straight.

After scoring 20 points or more in five straight games, Davidson rose to second nationally in three-point field-goal percentage (51.3 percent) and third nationally in free-throw accuracy (92 percent).

A week ago, she also ranked 27th in the land and led the Patriot League with a 19.8 scoring average and was 19th in the nation with three-pointers per game (2.86). Her average has dipped slightly, to 18.7, and she's second in the conference to Holy Cross' Molly Creamer (21.9).

"Courtney's real good at creating plays," said teammate Bryanna Herring (Wilde Lake). "She knows exactly when to pull up and when to drive. And her threes are amazing."

But Davidson hit a wall in Wednesday's loss to Lehigh at Alumni Hall, picking up two unwise fouls on defense in the first two minutes that forced her to miss nearly half the game.

She finished with only one field goal, a three-pointer. But with Lehigh leading by a point and the final seconds ticking away, Davidson was once again Ms. Go-To.

But her last shot bounded off the rim, making her distraught for some time. She rebounded with 19 points Saturday against Colgate, although Navy lost, 84-73.

"I saw her play plenty of times before she came here and what sold me was her competitiveness," Sanchez said. "She was a person who didn't mind carrying the load. At times she pushes herself too much trying to carry it, but she always wants the ball to take care of business."

Sanchez is attempting to concentrate more on the inside game to relieve some offensive pressure from Davidson, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds against league power Holy Cross in her first career double double.

As defenses pay her more heed, the coach must look elsewhere.

"I'd prefer that no one knew about me," she said. "Teams are focusing on me more. But if my teammates are hitting, I don't mind. Right now, I'd like to make a good feed to give some other people game confidence."

Even during New Oxford High's softball season, when she also served as team captain, Davidson was always shooting around on the court, especially on weekends.

"I've been playing since I was pretty young," said Davidson, 19. "At home, my hoop is outside and I cleared the snow and ice many times."

One look at the academy was enough to convince the political science major who aspires to "become part of the government some day, maybe run for office.

"I was looking around at other schools in the Patriot League and Ivy League, but I was just sold on Navy. I really liked what they had to offer academically.

"When the attacks hit [Sept. 11], it was kind of a fight-or-flight impulse for everybody here. Some people started questioning themselves about being at the academy, but for me, it kind of reaffirmed my role."

Already fourth on Navy's all-time three-point list with 89, Davidson carries a 3.65 grade-point average.

"Here, you have to give credit to people like her because of the schedule they carry. They're booked solidly and it takes a lot of discipline," Sanchez said. "I'd say she's a prime example of the student-athlete."

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