Attention On Davenport As Season Nears

Jessica Davenport came to OSU last year with plenty of hype, but she proved during her freshman season to be as advertised. This year, the 6-6 center will be one of the key players on a team expected to win the Big Ten. Kyle Lamb caught up with Davenport recently to get her thoughts on this year's team.

Standing 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, about the only thing larger than Jessica Davenport's body are the expectations she carries around with it.

People may see her as bigger than life and the game itself, and physically she might be a little on the ominous side, but other than her conspicuous appearance around campus, you may never know she could be the next great women's basketball star.

So, when Davenport was named as one of just two unanimous choices from both the coaches and the media to be a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection, Davenport didn't make an issue out of it.

"It's definitely an honor, but I probably wouldn't have even known if you guys (the media) didn't tell me," Davenport quipped. "It is an honor that people respect my game that much and picked me."

There's very little about Davenport's game not to like.

After averaging nearly 12 points a game as a junior in high school and blocking 137 shots while playing ball at Independence High School in Columbus, Davenport became one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the country her senior year.

Ranked as the second-best recruit in the entire country by the well-known Student Sports publication, Davenport averaged 17.1 points a game and over 10 rebounds on her way to being named to the McDonalds All American Game, where she ultimately scored 24 points in that contest.

Davenport could have gone practically to any college of her choice, but instead she opted to stay home and play for Jim Foster and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

"I'm happy that we're starting to get more of the top Ohio players," she said. "I think it's an honor to come here to Ohio State and play for your home team. Your whole community can come out and follow you after your high school career and it really means a lot to me."

Last season as a freshman, Davenport had a unique opportunity to learn on the job playing with senior center, LaToya Turner, the talented but oft-injured post from Pickerington, Ohio.

Davenport didn't take long to get acclimated to the college game, however. In fact, she often stole the show from Turner, on her way to being named the Big Ten freshman of the year by the media. She did so by averaging 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots a game.

This summer, playing for a group of Big Ten players in Australia, Davenport helped the team go 4-0 on the tour by scoring 15 points a game and averaging 6.8 rebounds a game.

With Turner gone, Davenport is left all by her lonesome to man the middle. She, however, feels there are plenty of players capable of taking the pressure off of her down low.

"We have underclassmen that can step up and play a significant role this season," Davenport said. "I think it's just a matter of them showing what they can do."

Davenport specifically is talking about freshmen Alice Jamen, a 6-3 forward from Wheeling, WV, and Tamarah Riley, a 6-2 forward from Detroit.

Davenport also specifically cited Vanderbilt transfer Tia Battle and Pickerington freshman Marscilla Packer as very impressive newcomers on the squad that will help the team out a lot this season.

While teams will be thinking of how to stop Davenport this upcoming season, she was thinking of ways to further improve her game.

"This summer, I really worked on protecting the ball and getting comfortable in the high-post as far as jump shots go," she explained. "I also worked on my hook shots around the basket as well and trying to be more than one-dimensional."

Teams can't like to hear that she has added another dimension to her game.

Foster, however, thinks just the transition from freshman to sophomore year alone will make Davenport a lot better.

"I think that's when you make your biggest improvements because as a freshman, you don't get a lot of stuff we're doing when they first come in," Foster said. "You figure that they are just barely in school long enough to learn their way around campus when we start, let alone trying to grasp what we're doing in practice."

With the Buckeyes being named preseason No. 1 in the Big Ten this season by the media, the team is more than ready to get going.

Davenport can't wait.

"Yes, I'm really excited," she said. "With the new year coming up, I'm ready to get started. It's been a long off-season."

For Big Ten opponents, it figures to be a long season facing Davenport. She's that big and even if she doesn't know it, others will.

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