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On Target

Shonnisha Davis’ Transition Is a Family Affair

Shonnisha Davis led the Archers to five wins in the opening month of the season.
Shonnisha Davis led the Archers to five wins in the opening month of the season.

When Shonnisha Davis shot her first few baskets as a member of the St. Louis Community College Archers this season, it was not a new sight to either head coach Shelly Ethridge or assistant Melanie Marcy.

The Archers’ coaching pair had seen that shot before. About 13 years ago, to be exact.

In 1998, Ethridge was the head coach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Marcy was in her senior season with the Riverwomen. Playing alongside Marcy was Tanisha Albert, Davis’ mother. A seven-year-old Davis tagged along to watch almost every game, and would routinely take to the court at halftime to shoot baskets.

“She had a nice little jumper,” Marcy recalled. “She had the game face going. You could tell she was competitive.”

That competitive fire is reminiscent of her mother, who Marcy described as a hard-nosed, detail-oriented player during their season together playing for Ethridge. Albert and her older sister, LaShonda, led Wellston High School to the 1994 Missouri Class 2A championship. Tanisha Albert later coached at Wellston.

“Her mom was a great player – a tough, tough player,” Marcy said of Albert. “The great things about her mom’s game are what Shonnisha has. She definitely has her mom’s shot and her tenacity.”

Fast forward to spring 2011, and Davis had just completed her first year as a collegiate basketball player. Davis, who played at Normandy High School, was the second-leading scorer (13 points per game) as a freshman on the Florissant Valley team. However, after STLCC moved to one districtwide team beginning this season, Davis would have to adjust to a new facility, new teammates and a new coaching staff.

“It concerned me a little, because their coaching style is different,” Davis said. “I’m not playing with anybody from my previous team. I was a little nervous, but it’s turned out OK for me.”

Though Ethridge’s coaching style may differ from what Davis had previously encountered, her personal experience with the staff has helped her to clear that hurdle. A much greater challenge would be providing veteran leadership to a team with 12 freshmen, with Markita Mosley serving as the only other sophomore.

Davis acknowledged the challenge appeared a bit daunting from the outset.

“I actually didn’t know I’d be one of only two sophomores up front,” Davis said. “When I did know, I knew we had a lot of work to do. Being who I am, I knew I had to lead by example.”

Her on-court leadership has been clear to see. Davis leads the Archers with eight rebounds per game, and is third in scoring with nine points per contest. However, with such a young team, it’s Davis’ veteran experience that may be her most valuable asset, particularly with a team so reliant on youth.

Davis has enjoyed the opportunity to impart her knowledge on her freshman teammates.

“I just try to tell them that the intensity is so much different in college,” Davis said. “You may have been able to get away with some things on the court in high school that you can’t in college. The game is so much faster. The freshmen are realizing that.”

That’s a lesson that is difficult to thoroughly teach as a coach without the aid of a veteran with the presence of Davis, said Marcy. Points of emphasis become much more relevant with a second-year player among the group that is leading the way.

“A lot of kids don’t have someone telling them from experience,” Marcy said. “And they don’t want to hear it from the coaches. It’s extremely helpful when it’s coming from a kid right next to them.”

For Davis, the opportunity to lead has become a source of pride, as she has found her teammates increasingly receptive to her instruction as the season has begun to take shape.

“We still have to grow team-wise, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Davis said. “(But) we’ve grown so much more outside of basketball. We’re a family. On the court, we’re a family.”

Davis finding family in basketball? Sounds familiar.