With in-state competition from NCAA Division I schools Missouri State, Saint Louis, UMKC, not to mention smaller NCAA schools such as UMSL and Rolla, it can be difficult for the Columbia College women’s basketball team to get top-notch talent.
Last spring, the Cougars managed to corral an all-state point guard from Boonville High School. And while coach Mike Davis has done a great job bringing quality players to Columbia, a rising power in the NAIA ranks, this could have been the easiest recruiting job he has ever undertaken.
Rather than travel across the state to talk a girl and her parents into playing basketball for Columbia College, all Davis had to do was go home for dinner. That all-state point guard was Whitney Davis, a 2006 graduate of Boonville, and Mike Davis’ daughter.
“It’s definitely a unique situation,” Mike Davis said. “It’s funny, we never really talked about it like that. I guess I tried to do it in a low-key way.”
However he went about it, he chose the right path, because Whitney Davis committed to Columbia College and was inserted right into the starting lineup. She has made her presence felt, running the offense smoothly and contributing 6.8 points and 5.5 assists per game for the 6-1 Cougars.
This hasn’t been the first time the Davises worked together on the court. Dad coached her 9-year-old Show-Me State Games team and was her middle school coach in Boonville. For the past two summers, he coached Missouri Showtime, an AAU team featuring his daughter, Whitney Widaman, a fellow Cougar freshman, and Jessra Johnson, a freshman for the Missouri Tigers.
When college coaches began showing an interest in Whitney Davis, she and her dad took recruiting trips and visited campuses just like any potential college athlete.
“I was getting looked at by Nebraska-Omaha, Rolla, UMKC and some other Division II schools,” Whitney Davis said. “My dad was pretty cool about it, but sometimes it was really weird with other coaches.”
In the end, her familiarity with the program was a deciding factor in her decision.
“She had been around Columbia College a lot, but had never been on the other (academic) side,” Mike Davis said. “During March of her junior year, she went along with another recruit and got the whole dorm experience. “That showed her what else the school had to offer beyond basketball.”
Mike Davis has spent the past six years building a program literally from scratch at Columbia. His first year on campus, there was no team. He spent that year recruiting and getting the word out about the program. Since then, the Cougars have averaged 27 wins per season and have made four trips to the national postseason tournament.
Even though the team plays in the NAIA, Whitney Davis says she has no qualms about the level of competition.
“I know how good this program is,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about what level it is.”
She said Nebraska-Omaha was the only other school she strongly considered, but in the end, she wanted to play for her father.
“I love it,” she said. “My family is really close, so it’s good for us.”
Her father agreed.
“It would have been difficult to see her at UNO,” Mike Davis said. “I really appreciate her here. Any time a family gets to be a part of the college experience, it’s really special.”
Now that Whitney Davis has settled in at Columbia College, her focus has turned to the court. And while she has been playing well, sometimes she tries to be too flashy and makes mistakes. Her father, not one to coddle any of his players, makes no exception for his daughter.
“He’s my dad, but he’s my coach out there first,” Whitney Davis said. “He’s been hard on me, but he is kind of a crazy coach. He’ll yell at everyone.”
That yelling, which he would say is constructive criticism, actually loosens up his players.
“At first, the other girls were scared to say anything bad about him when I was around,” Whitney Davis said. “But then I’d crack a few jokes, and now everyone is cool about it.”
The yelling has been rare, as the Cougars have jumped out to another good start this year, losing for the first time Nov. 17 in a tournament game against Cardinal Stritch (Wis.).
“We’ve got a great competitive spirit this year,” Mike Davis said. “The girls have played really hard.”
After missing the national tournament for the first time last season, the team is poised for a return to prominence, led by the Davis family, on the bench and on the court.