Davis Looking To Build On Sensational Rookie Season
July 31, 2012
By Sarah Jennings
SEATTLE - Jazmine Davis wanted to make sure her decision to attend the University of Washington was based on academics.
The 5-7 guard from San Jose, Calif., always wanted to be a nurse and knew UW has one of the top nursing programs in the country. So when former coach Tia Jackson recruited her and promised the coaches would accommodate her class schedule, the decision was easy.
After Jackson resigned and Kevin McGuff was hired from Xavier, Davis admits she was a little nervous about whether the new coach would offer her the same accommodations. But any doubts she had about staying after the coaching change quickly dissipated during the first conversation she had with Coach McGuff.
"He called to introduce himself and the game plan and his expectations," says Davis. "But he also reassured me that they would be supportive of me doing the nursing program, so I felt good about it."
McGuff echoed this feeling.
"The first time I even talked to Jaz I had a great conversation with her. I shared with her our vision for the program and the expectations of the players," McGuff said. "She seemed to be really excited about that, she really wanted to be a part of the program here at Washington. So just from our first phone call I was really excited about the opportunity to coach her."
When McGuff took the job he had never seen her play, so from a basketball standpoint he really didn't have any expectations. He knew the team needed a point guard and was hopeful she would embrace that role.
According to the second-year UW coach, she has from day one.
"She really has done everything I've asked her to do," McGuff said. "I've challenged her, I've really pushed her, and to her credit she's really taken it all in and she just had the right mindset to come in as a freshman and be an integral part of our program."
Heading into her freshman year, Davis was confident, but not immune to the usual freshman nerves. After star guard Kristi Kingma went down with an ACL injury during a summer exhibition game in Norway, she was thrown into the starting lineup.
"I was really nervous," Davis recalls. "I was thinking `am I going to be able to do what they ask of a starting point guard?'"
Despite her initial hesitance, Davis turned in an impressive first season, averaging 15.7 ppg while leading the team in minutes played -- a rare occurrence for a freshman. During conference play she scored 20 or more points nine different times, with a career high of 28 against Arizona. She shattered the records for most points and three pointers by a freshman in Husky women's basketball history, and her performance helped the team enjoy its first 20-win season since 2003.
After the season, the awards rolled in. She received one of the leagues' top honors, Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year, while also being selected for the All-Conference team. Davis was the first Husky to win the FPOTY award since Karen Deden in 1988. Considering Washington was the only Pac-12 School to recruit Davis, earning this award was a surprising, albeit significant accomplishment. Davis was also named to the Freshman All-America Second Team, one of just five players from the Pac-12 to earn All-American recognition.
Davis was excited about her performance, but didn't expect all the post-season honors.
"I was really surprised, there were other good freshman guards and a lot of great programs [in the Pac-12]" says Davis. "I was definitely surprised, but super excited."
Maybe the only people who were not surprised were McGuff and his coaching staff.
"Very early on just watching her practice, as much as anything, I thought mentally she had the toughness that it would take to play as a freshman," McGuff said. "Point guard is not an easy position to play and it takes the right mentality to be successful at that position, especially that early in your career, and I thought she had that."
McGuff adds, "I knew she would have a terrific season, the thing I was really excited about was that she just continued to get better and better the more we challenged her and coached her -- and that's to her credit that's not easy to do -- but it was really fun to see and I had a really good time coaching her this past year."
Davis is quick to credit her teammates and coaches for her performance. "I feel blessed to have such a great team and coaching staff, I couldn't have done any of it without them."
With the success Davis experienced on the court this past year, there will inevitably be a target on her back and she will become a focal point for most teams' defensive efforts. McGuff believes she needs to add a little more to her game because teams are going to guard her much closer.
"She's going to have to continue to grow and improve her skill set to give her different ways to score and get to the basket," he said. "I think she could also become a better defender and as we grow as a program we want to be a better defensive team and she needs to be a big part of that."
Davis has been working hard this summer in the weight room and the gym, trying to improve her strength and her consistency in making shots. She has also focused on ball handling and aggressiveness as well as her defense and shot selection. Another area where McGuff wants to see Davis grow is her leadership.
"She's got a great personality, she brings great energy to the court on a daily basis and she's someone who can kind of rally the other people with her because she is so engaging," said McGuff. "I think [this next year] will be a great opportunity for her to take a step up from a leadership standpoint."
Contrary to Davis' freshman year, the expectations heading into her sophomore year are much higher. With those expectations comes the added pressure to improve on her freshman season.
Davis seems poised to handle this unfamiliar territory.
"Pressure is expected, and I know I can talk to the coaches or turn to my team [for help]," Davis said. "If things aren't going my way I envision myself doing great things on the court and it helps me keep my confidence."
McGuff is excited to see what Davis can do as a sophomore and believes that she will make others around her better.
"Jaz is at her best when she is playing really aggressively and she's creating tempo for our team, when she's really getting the ball up and down the court, I think that's going to help Kristi, going to help Talia, think it's going to help the team in general," said McGuff. "I think she's going to make other people better, including Kristi."
Both Davis and McGuff are looking forward to next year and seeing what this team can do. Davis is excited for the opportunity to play with Kingma and the rest of the returning players, while also getting a chance to lead the incoming freshman and ease them into collegiate basketball. She believes that they have the potential to do great things as team and hopes to build on the success they experienced last year.
"We are going to be a team to look out for," said Davis.