FORT POLK, La. — The Fort Polk community will have a new reason to cheer on the Louisiana State University Lady Tigers basketball beginning in the fall when DeRidder High School’s Domonique Davis makes the transition from high school to Division 1 college basketball.
Davis, whose parents are former Soldiers, signed a scholarship with LSU in November. The 5-foot-6-inch guard is ranked by ESPN as the 19th best point guard and 71st best player in the nation among graduating seniors. ESPN described her as having “a scorer’s mentality, explosive floor game and court awareness.”
Davis has averaged more than 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game this season in leading the DeRidder Lady Dragons to the third round of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association girls basketball playoffs. In a second round game against Helen Cox Feb. 18, Davis totaled 29 points and 7 assists to lead her team to a 56-42 victory and a quarterfinal date with No. 3 seed Minden.
Davis, who has started for the DeRidder High School varsity since her freshman year, said securing a scholarship to a Division 1 school and Louisiana’s flagship university, was payoff for the hard work she, her family and friends have put into playing basketball.
“I’ve played basketball since I can remember,” she said. “As I was growing up, I thought I was pretty good, but didn’t realize I might be good enough to play college ball until after my sophomore year in high school. I had a good year and our team made it to the final four. I went into summer ball and thought maybe I could do something with it.”
LSU head women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas, said the Tigers were fortunate to add a player of Davis’ ability to their team.
“She’s one of those special players, who is unselfish and has the ability to make those around her better,” Fargas said as she watched Davis dominate a talented Helen Cox team. “The work ethic she displays on the defensive side of the basketball shows she’s a young lady with a lot of discipline in her life, that is purpose driven in what she wants to do, and we’re grateful to be a part of that.”
To say her parents, retired Sgt. 1st Class Victoria Davis and Army veteran Nathaniel Davis, are proud would be an understatement. Victoria said her daughter has always been athletic and smart.
“We first put a basketball in her hand when she was about 4 or 5, and from then I knew she could be something special,” Victoria said. Whether softball, basketball or soccer ball, she excelled. When we PCSd from Germany, my husband (Nathaniel) found basketball camps for her. I told her, ‘Look, if we’re going to make an investment, this has to be something you’re going to stick with.’”
And stick with it she did. Victoria said Domonique always played up, competing against those older than she, holding her own. She attributes her mental toughness to coming from a military family.
“I think coming from a military family helped shape Domonique’s work ethic and discipline,” Victoria said. “I’m a firm believer in structure in the home and discipline, and staying focused. I was always a focused individual, especially in my military career.
“I think being in the military shaped me, which in turned shaped Domonique and helped make her who she is today.”
Although Nathaniel said he was always available to rebound for Domonique when she wanted to work on her shooting skills at the goal in the front yard of their DeRidder home, he said she developed the skills that earned her scholarship on her own.
“We never had to make her practice,” he said. “We put a basketball goal in our front yard when we came back from Germany in 2005; it’s been through hurricanes and storms and it’s still there and she’s still using it. No one forced her to do anything, whatever she’s accomplished she’s done on her own; she didn’t inherit any of it.”
Nathaniel said Domonique’s “genuine love of basketball and desire to succeed” have driven her to be her best.
“She has goals she’s set and she won’t quit until she attains them,” he said. “But she’s not selfish; she’s never been a selfish basketball player. That makes her stand out. It’s not just scoring; she’ll pass it if she thinks someone else has a better shot. She’s a well-rounded basketball player and person.”
Charles Kiely is Davis’ coach at DeRidder High School and said he is going to miss his star player once the current season is over.
“She’s not just a great basketball player, but a fantastic kid,” Kiely said. “She excels in the classroom. I’ve never seen a kid that works harder than Domonique. She in the gym extra days, she plays through injuries, I’ve literally been blessed for four years with a talented kid.”
Kiely said Davis has been a tremendous ambassador for Deridder.
“It means a lot for DeRidder High School to have a kid of Domonique’s character and ability sign with LSU,” he said. “I’ve reminded the other kids that when college coaches come to see Domonique play, they also can see our other girls play. It’s their opportunity to shine before college coaches.”
Kiely said he thinks that when she reaches the end of her college career Davis will be recognized as one of the best point guards in the nation.
“If Domonique puts her mind to it, I can see the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) in her future,” he said. “If that’s her goal, I see nothing stopping her. I’ve had her since she was a seventh grader, and one of her goals was to play D1 basketball. She’s worked her tail off to get there. When she gets to the next level at LSU, she’ll be even better because she’s never had a shooting coach or a strength and conditioning coach. She’ll have the best things money can buy and will get even better. I’m excited for her.”
Domonique has admitted that she thinks about a career in the WNBA.
“The WNBA has always been a dream,” she said. “Seeing them play on TV and some of them in person, I think that maybe I want to do that one day and continue playing after college.”
Nathaniel said he’s also confident if Domonique sets her mind to it, the WNBA is not out of reach.
“I think the WNBA is one of the toughest professional leagues to make simply because of the small number of teams and the amount of women who graduate from college each year,” he said. “It’s tough. I think she can do anything she puts her mind to, so I think she can do it. If that’s a goal for her, she’ll work toward it until she gets an opportunity.”
For now, Nathaniel said his daughter is excited about joining her new teammates in June after high school graduation.
“We’re proud of her,” he said. “She’s humble and wants what’s best for the team. She’s mentally strong and a good leader. That will do nothing but help her at the next level.”
Her mother agreed.
“When people tell us that she is a good kid, it makes me feel that her dad and I did a good job raising her,” she said.
“It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child, so it wasn’t just us. It was all of those around us, and I think having her in church played a big part in that. She wasn’t sheltered, but she was around people that loved her and wanted her to grow.”
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