Jessica Davenport grows as Fever struggle.
by Josh Flynn
The Indiana Fever are a head scratching mystery this season. There are nights when the team is unstoppable. There are nights when they fumble about the basketball court and look nothing like the Eastern Conference champions. They are inconsistent. For a short stretch the Fever rode a five game win streak back to the top of the East. A three game losing streak has dropped them back to third place.
If there has been one consistent spot for the team it’s been 6’5 reserve center Jessica Davenport. She’s upped her averages during the stretch, putting in 8.8 points, grabbing 4.4 boards, and adding nearly one block, assist and steal per game. In a recent loss to Atlanta she pulled down a career high 12 rebounds.
She’s physically imposing on the court, but gentle in manner off. She’s packed with championship potential—and some nights it surfaces like the 12 caroms against Atlanta, the 18 points in 18 minutes against Phoenix in Game 5 of the 2009 WNBA Finals—but other nights she seems unable to tap into the full extent of that potential.
The New York Liberty saw the potential. They made Davenport a key ingredient in their rebuilding plans when they drafted her with the second pick in the 2007 WNBA draft. Davenport was leaving behind a stellar career at Ohio State. During two years with the Liberty, however, she averaged 5.3 and 4.6 ppg and nearly three rpg in just 11 minutes of playing time a game. Then the Liberty gave up and waived her.
One night at the beginning of the 2009 season, Davenport was in Wal-Mart shopping for dinner when her agent called and told her the Indiana Fever had picked her up. She needed to get home and pack and head to Indianapolis. But before doing so Davenport emptied her shopping cart. “I took everything out and put it back up and came [to Indianapolis] the next day,” she says.
Now she joins Briann January, Shavonte Zellous, and Jene Morris as the Fever’s future.
During her first season with the Fever, Davenport chose the most opportune time to show her true potential: the deciding game of the 2009 WNBA Finals. While the Fever lost the game and the championship to the Phoenix Mercury, Davenport came off the bench for 18 points in 18 minutes of playing time. “I knew I could score inside so it was nice for [my game] to be finally clicking,” she says.
Jessica Davenport is a lot like legendary NBA center Robert Parish. She’s stoic on the basketball court. She can hit shots away from the basket. She’s a reliable free throw shooter. Her numbers are respectable for 13.5 minutes a game. Through the season, she’s averaged 6.8 points and 2.6 rebounds. She shoots 57 percent from the field. The numbers don’t measure up to Parish’s, but Davenport has shown the potential. There are nights when she is unstoppable.
During the offseason, she spent the winter playing in China and arrived early for training camp. “I got to come over earlier before the season started and work out with the coaches,” she says. “They were able to see I could hit 15-foot jumpers and they were helping me with my three point shot and they saw my moves down low. Bringing that to the table has helped out a lot.”
The team knows Davenport will give them a solid effort when they need her, but she feels she and her fellow reserves need to help the team find consistency. “We have the tools here to go all the way but we need to be consistent in our efforts—rebounding, bringing energy from the beginning to the end of the game,” she says. “If we do those things I think we will be alright.”
Tuesday night the Fever only did those things for one quarter against the Liberty. They found themselves in an 11-point hole going into the third quarter, cut the lead to one on a Davenport basket, but then let New York dominate in the fourth. The Fever lost at home to the Liberty 82-72. Head coach Lin Dunn was flummoxed by her team’s lack of energy and effort during the postgame press conference. Davenport, January, and Zellous were the only players beyond Fever star Tamika Catchings Dunn complimented.
“This year we just haven’t had many games where everyone is clicking offensively and defensively,” Davenport says, stating focus as a key for the Fever to make another run during the upcoming playoffs. “When we’re doing what we need to do and bringing our specific games to the table I think we can do anything.”