Believe it or not, freshman center Jessica Davenport did not always have an interest in basketball. Davenport’s apathy eventually changed into love and her dedication is one of many reasons why she was the No. 2 recruit in the nation as a senior at Columbus Independence High School. After her senior campaign, Davenport was anxious to decide where she wanted to attend college. Following her decision to attend Ohio State, Davenport quickly adjusted to life in the classroom and the basketball court.
At what moment did you decide to make the commitment to play basketball?
“During the summer of my freshman year in high school, the AAU team I played on went to nationals in Florida. We played against some of the toughest competition we had ever encountered and I thought I was pretty good, so I began to work harder. Before that moment, I just played basketball because I was tall and people pressured me to play, but I saw the bigger picture and realized the opportunities associated with playing basketball and decided to become serious about the game.”
What is the bigger picture and some of the opportunities associated with playing college basketball?
“There was the opportunity to earn a scholarship at Ohio State, one of the best colleges in America. Also being coached by one of the best coaches in the country and having the opportunity to continue to play basketball in general.”
You said you were pressured into playing basketball in high school. Was that pressure hard to handle or were you okay with it?
“The pressure was annoying at times because everywhere I went people would ask me if I played basketball. Once I really got into playing the game and developed a winning attitude, I realized playing basketball would take me somewhere. That’s when I started to like it and eventually love it.”
What were your other interests in high school other than basketball? What are some of your interests now?
“From 10th grade up to this point, basketball was my main interest most of the time. Other than playing basketball, I enjoy the Internet, hanging out with my friends and going to the mall. I like doing things that normal teenagers liked to do in high school and things college students like to do.”
Did you attend Ohio State women’s basketball games in your youth? How did the games influence your decision to play at the collegiate level?
“When I came to a game my freshman year in high school, I noticed the difference in the atmosphere. It is more exciting in college. College games have much bigger crowds. The fans were really into it and the players were very intense. So the first time I came to a game, I was excited about playing the game in college.”
What were some of the bonding experiences you had, either with your family or your high school team?
“It was always fun to go to games with my family or teammates. It sent chills down my spine to see how the fans reacted to the players. I think all of my teammates wanted that – to be able to play at the next level – so we all worked hard to get this opportunity.”
As you watched the women’s basketball games, did you learn moves or strategies that you thought would help you in your high school game?
“I have been watching LaToya (Turner) since the ninth grade. She’s a great post player, she works hard even though she’s been through a lot with her knee. She does it because she loves basketball. She’s a great role model for me.”
Have you ever or do you currently model your game after any NBA or WNBA player?
“I really like Tim Duncan from the Spurs. I like his game because he is a patient player and he’s efficient and I want to be like that. I try to pattern my game after him.”
How did you feel to be the No. 2 recruit in the nation last year as picked by Student Sports Magazine?
“It was very overwhelming. At first the question was ‘Do you play basketball?,’ then the question shifted to ‘Where are you going?’ My mom just told me ‘It’s your decision. Take your time and don’t let anyone pressure you.'”
At what point were you swayed to play for Ohio State?
“When I traveled with my AAU team over the summer I was away from home for a whole month. Our team traveled to Las Vegas, Washington and Chicago and during that time I realized I didn’t want to be away from my family. I narrowed my choices down based on schools that were too far and then I narrowed my choices down to Big Ten schools. Eventually Ohio State became my No. 1 one choice. I loved it when I visited here. I had a chance to get to know the team and the coaches and I found that this university would be the best fit for me.”
Did a particular person greatly assist you in your decision-making process?
“No, it was mostly all my decision. If I had questions or comments about school, I would ask and let my parents know how I felt about it. My parents were supportive of anything I wanted to do. They just wanted what was best for me. They understood that I was going to be the one on the court, the one in school and you can’t let other people influence where you are going because they are not going through the pressures that you are going through.”
What experience did you gain from traveling around the country, basketball related or not?
“I gained the experience of being away from home and learning how to be responsible for myself. I had to learn little things, such as making sure I ate and went to bed on time. I also learned how to play against different and tougher competition.”
Describe your emotions after you decided to attend Ohio State?
“When I verbally committed to Ohio State, I felt relieved to know that I was going to be apart of this university. Also, I wanted to make sure that when I came here I represented Ohio State in the right way.”
Academically, what is the difference between high school and college?
“You have to spend more time studying. There is a lot of reading material and you can’t afford to get behind. Time management is difficult.”
What has been your most challenging class thus far?
“All my classes have been pretty challenging. I’m in History 151 right now and it requires a lot more reading than I initially expected. History and psychology are pretty much my most difficult classes so far.”
What are some of the biggest or most memorable lessons you have learned, either in college or on the court?
“I have learned that I have to stay true to myself. Nobody is going to live my life but me. Nobody is going through what I’m going through, so I have to do what I think is right.”
What are your goals as a student-athlete at The Ohio State University?
“I want to learn more as a player. I need to stay focused and work hard because there a lot of things I don’t know about the game. Everyday I come to the gym I learn something new. I also want to stay on top of my academics, because if I don’t, I no longer can be a student-athlete.”
What was the most difficult aspect of adjusting to basketball in college?
“The intensity level in practice was a little difficult to adjust to initially. I had to adjust to getting every detail in practice right because it fits into the game. We don’t practice anything that will not be used in the game. Even if we are a foot off in our steps, coach (Jim Foster) will tell us because that detail will fit into our game.”
How have you integrated with the team?
“I think I have integrated well with the team. We all hang out with each other, so it has been a smooth transition for me.”
Do you still feel like a freshman or do you feel as though you have experience on the team now?
“I feel like if I make mistakes, my teammates will let me know. I have experience from high school and my AAU team, so there are some things I know already. If I make mistakes I get down on myself, but then I realize I’m playing against different competition.”
Describe you personality on the court? Off the court?
“Off the court, I’m pretty laid back and just go with the flow. I’m not the one who is going to put themselves out there. I just get in a close circle with my friends and hang out. On the court, I try to lead by example. I’m not very vocal, but if I see something that needs to be done, I’ll let my teammates know.”
What advice do you have for young athletes who want to pursue college basketball on the collegiate level?
“Stay true to yourself because things are going to go wrong. Make sure you stay focused academically and athletically because that’s the main reason you are at college. You just have to make sure you have everything in order.”