Justin Jackson, Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

D stands for Davenport and defense these days at West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — A smile breaks out across Naomi Davenport’s face when she thinks of the time she told Mike Carey the truth about herself.
Carey, of course, was quick to throw some truth back at her.
“On my recruiting visit here, I told coach Carey that I didn’t play defense,” Davenport said.
Carey’s response: “I asked her if she likes to play? She’s like, ‘Yeah, coach, I love to play.’ I said, ‘Well, if you want to play for me, then you have to play defense.’ ”
That day seems like ages ago now, for, in just two seasons, Davenport has developed into one of the Mountaineer’s best all-around players.
The senior 6-foot guard from Cincinnati will have another chance to showcase her skills at 7 p.m. Wednesday, as West Virginia (22-10) hosts Northwestern (18-14) in the third round of the WNIT.
West Virginia, which is 15-4 in the WNIT under Carey, is looking for its second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals of the tournament. The winner advances to face either Ohio University or Western Kentucky on Saturday or Sunday.
“My point is, she has worked hard,” Carey said. “She could always score. Now, it’s learning defense and playing defense and playing harder than she’s ever had to play before.”
It did not exactly happen overnight.
“In practice, I was always guarding the ball and got beat,” Davenport said. “Practice players would just go right at me. One practice, I almost started crying and was thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ ”
She continued to work and lost weight this summer to help her move better.
“I started doing agility stuff after practice and I lost weight,” she said. “It was about wanting to do it.”
The result? Davenport began this season with the school’s third-ever triple double (13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Coppin State). She’s added seven double-doubles since.
And while Davenport considers herself a guard, she’s played mostly as the Mountaineers’ power forward this season and even some at center in the WNIT after starter Theresa Ekhelar was suspended to start the tournament.
Her 8.1 rebounds per games leads the team, so do her 52 steals. She’s second on the team with 80 assists.
In the WNIT, Davenport is averaging 24 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
“I don’t want to be the weak link and keep getting beat on defense,” Davenport said. “I just kept working and here I am.”
Here, too, are the Mountaineers, who seemingly have got over the disappointment of getting left out of the NCAA tournament and are now focused on making the deepest WNIT run as possible.
“I thought in the beginning, they were disappointed with not getting into the NCAAs,” Carey said. “Now, I’ve had several of them come up to me and say, ‘Coach, we can win this.’ I think they’re getting excited.”
As far as Ekhelar’s suspension, which the school announced was for a violation of team rules, Monongalia County Judge Phillip Gaujot denied Ekhelar’s legal request Monday to be reinstated to the team.
Ekhelar sued West Virginia with the hope of being able to rejoin the team for the rest of the tournament.
Carey was not named in the lawsuit and he was out of town recruiting Monday.
“It’s out of my hands and I have no reaction whatsoever,” Carey said.
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