GOODRICH – Tania Davis did not spend her childhood in front of a television.
She spent it in a gym … any gym.
“My dad really got me into playing basketball,” said Davis, a senior guard at Goodrich. “He took me to the ‘Y’ often. I used to play with him and a couple older guys. He used to take me to some of his league games and I’d shoot around up there.”
Her father is Roy Davis, a teammate of Charlie Bell’s at Flint Southwestern.
She was still young when her father moved to Atlanta, but that didn’t mean she was finished with basketball.
She was just getting started.
“Once my dad moved away,” Davis said, “my grandpa started dating the head coach of Mott Community College.”
The Mott coach, who also coached at Flint Northern, is Letitia Hughley, who won three Class A state championships as a player at Northern and coached the Vikings to two more state titles.
“She really got me going,” Davis said of Hughley. “She kept me in the gym. She really developed me pretty much into the player I am now, and I just kept working from there.”
What kind of player is Davis now?
Well, at 5-feet-3, Davis isn’t the biggest player in the state, but she is among the best.
Davis has helped Goodrich win two state championships and has signed to play at Iowa.
This season, Davis is averaging 21 points, six assists and five steals, and is a leading candidate for the Miss Basketball Award.
A lot of kids spend their early years in gyms, but Davis was paying attention, not messing around in the bleachers.
“My dad had me working out with him, he had me playing against the older guys when I was 6 or 7,” she said. “He made sure I did everything correctly. After he moved away, my mom kept pushing me. That gave me more love for the game.”
Davis’ mother is Nicky Anderson. She also played basketball at Southwestern and was a teammate of Stacey Thomas, who went on to star at Michigan.
Anderson played against Hughley’s Northern teams and was delighted when Hughley took an interest in her daughter.
“She was with Letitia for years,” Anderson said. “Tania was her water girl when she was at Flint Northern. She would go to all the practices and all the games with her.”
Davis was 7 when Hughley set up cones on the sideline and had her begin ballhandling drills. Once she was older, she jumped in and did the drills with the varsity players.
“She did the passing drills, the ballhandling drills, the shooting drills, she did all that stuff with the girls,” Hughley said. “When she got in the fifth or sixth grade, if we were short of players, I’d put her out there and let her practice with the players.”
The aspect that impressed Hughley most about Davis had nothing to do with her scrimmaging against the varsity or participating in the drills. Hughley was amazed at how well Davis knew the game.
“I thought she was going to be a good player when she was in the sixth grade and sat on my bench and told me she wanted to do the stats,” Hughley said. “So I got her a stats sheet and clipboard and a pencil and she kept the stats. After the game, I compared her stats to the assistant coach’s stats, and they were fairly close. I knew she was learning the game. That’s when I knew she was going to be something special.”
Davis is special because there is little she can’t do on a basketball court.
“Honestly, she can do whatever she wants,” Goodrich coach Jason Gray said. “We could play her at the wing; she’s got post moves. The ability to be the type of player she is, considering her size, is pretty amazing. She’s really a complete player. She plays point guard because she’s small and quick and can handle the ball.”
Because of her size, Davis plays with a chip on her shoulder. Teams try to pick on her defensively, using her size against her.
“It doesn’t bother me at all, it just motivates me,” she said. “Teams think that I’m the weakest link because I’m smaller than their players are, so it just really pushes me.”
And she pushes back, especially defensively.
Davis is at her best defensively when she can disrupt any team’s offense by herself. She moves up and down and across the court like a water bug wreaking havoc on the offense.
If an opposing player isn’t careful, Davis will pick her pocket and head the other way for a lay-in.
“I’m always in their shorts,” she said, laughing. “I’m always aggravating them. I can feel myself getting under people’s skin, because defensively I’m lower than what the offensive player is, and that’s pretty much the advantage of being shorter than everyone else because I’m already down there. So if you try a crossover or go between the legs, I’m already there.
“I have a lot of steals.”
While she is a fun-loving youngster who laughs easily, Davis is mature beyond her years. It is a result of learning that her mother needed a pacemaker.
In November 2013, Anderson had a pacemaker inserted to compensate for a condition discovered while delivering Davis, the eldest of her two children.
Anderson was told then she eventually would need a pacemaker, but it wouldn’t come until she was well into her 50s or 60s.
“That was the last thing I was expecting, to have to get a pacemaker at 33,” she said. “Tania was very scared. She really tried to hide it, but she was really scared. She was great. She was a good helper.”
Davis did the best she could to be brave for her mother and her younger brother, Tyson, 11, but it did cause a lot of anxiety then — and some now.
“Some days it’s on my mind and some days it isn’t,” Davis said. “When she doesn’t feel real well, I wonder if it’s because of the pacemaker. Other than that, it’s day to day.”
Constantly on Davis’ mind are her two best days at Goodrich when the Martians won state titles.
As a freshman, she started and played 25 minutes, scoring nine points with three assists in the championship game.
An early-season injury to senior KiKi Sevillian the following season thrust Davis into a leadership role as a sophomore. She responded with a tremendous season capped by a 20-point, seven-rebound, three-assist game in the state final.
And that is how she wants to end her high school career — with another title.
“It was the best feeling ever,” she said. “When I look back on our state championship teams, I notice that we were really, really hardworking, and we were determined to do whatever it took to win a championship. That’s what me and Coach Gray are trying to instill in this team right now.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.