Davenport steps into the New Year shining

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Freshman Empress Davenport has found her niche after a slow start to her career, averaging 7.2 points in Big 12 play.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

About 19 months ago, an excited Duncanville High junior had to decide one thing. Did she want to become a Cowgirl, a Jayhawk or a Longhorn?

The 17-year-old Empress Davenport decided to move about 200 miles south and become a Longhorn.

Although Gail Goestenkors was the head coach when she committed to Texas, current head coach Karen Aston knew Davenport would be an integral part of the Longhorns’ future success.

“Empress is incredibly competitive and comes from Duncanville, where the environment has been very competitive, so she understands how to compete,” Aston said at the beginning of the season. “It has put her at an advantage in practice every day, and I expect her to play a lot.”

While starting 14 of the 16 games so far this season, Davenport has averaged 7.2 points a game, sixth most on the team. She has also shot 34.4 percent from the floor and recorded 20 steals, ranking second on the team.

Davenport wasn’t always putting up numbers this good every game. The freshman started slow, scoring minimally and showing almost no presence on the court. Whatever was causing this slump is gone now.

The holiday cheer between Christmas and New Year’s must have gotten to the 5-foot-7-inch guard as she has been a vital part of the young Longhorns team ever since. In her game against Big 12 rival Oklahoma, Davenport recorded a career-high 12 points and seven rebounds, which brought her team within eight points of a win against its ranked opponent.

“Empress and I talked a lot about roles and how she can get better before Christmas break,” Aston said after the rivalry game. “She has really responded in the last two games.”

Davenport didn’t look back.

In her next game, she turned in an even better performance against new Big 12 foe West Virginia. Davenport scored a career-high 14 points as her team fell in a dramatic loss.

“[Davenport] continues to do what she is asked to do,” Aston said. “She has really picked it up over the past two games, especially in rebounding.”

Although the aspiring anesthesiologist, who has continually stepped up her game from the start of conference play, isn’t frightened by the Big 12, her team might be as they have gone 0-5, the worst start of conference play in school history.

Aston has put a lot of focus on her younger players in the hope that they will carry the team out of the downward spiral it is headed into.

“The people that are taking ownership are really young, so I am asking freshmen and a sophomore and junior college transfer to take a lot of ownership,” Aston said. “It is hard for them.”

While the Longhorns have lost their last seven games, Aston is staying optimistic that her team is getting better every day.

“If they had bad attitudes or if they weren’t trying, I would be very frustrated, but I don’t feel that way,” Aston said. “It is not in them to quit. They are preparing better, but when they get into the games, they are still young and they forget what we have prepared. That will come with time.”

Davenport, as she continues to rise as a leader of this Longhorn team, is hopeful that her team will come out of this decline with a new look and a new way to win. The enthusiastic guard is ready to take on the rest of the season with the hard-hitting attitude she is known for.

“The Big 12 is a difficult conference and we have to stay aggressive,” Davenport said. “That’s how we get numbers. Everyone goes out and plays aggressive.”