Women's hoops: A talented trio of freshmen

With the fall semester now in full swing and with basketball season just a few weeks away, VandyMania stopped by Memorial Gym to chat with three members of Melanie Balcomb's heralded freshman class.

Freshmen guards Dee Davis and Cherish Stringfield and forward/center Carla Thomas are part of the most highly rated recruiting class in the history of the women's basketball program.

With the fall semester now in full swing and with basketball season just a couple of months away, VandyMania stopped by Memorial Gym to get acquainted and to find out how things are going for them. Here's what they had to say.

VM: First, I'd like to know how you came to be at Vanderbilt -- how long you'd been recruited by Vandy, when did you make your decision, what did you like, why did you decide to come here. Since I don't know you well enough to recognize your voices yet, start out by telling us who you are.

Dee: I'm Deonna Davis. Everybody calls me "Dee." I'll be number 10. I made my decision to come to Vanderbilt on August 12, which was my cousin's birthday. I actually knew I was going to come here a week before I verballed, and I just made it more special by verballing on my cousin's birthday.

Coach Balcomb had been recruiting me since the eighth grade, I believe, at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She used to come to my open gyms when I was in junior high school. So I've always seen Coach Balcomb. I visited Xavier, and I really liked her and her coaching style. Then when she moved down here, it was a good fit for myself because I have a lot of family here, and some of my friends have moved down here, so it was a good match for myself. Right now, I just love the choice that I made. Coach Balcomb and everybody have proven to be very good coaches and mentors, and the team is great, so I have no complaints.

Carla: I'm Carla Thomas, and I'm going to be number 50. I had verballed to Vanderbilt my sophomore year. Then Coach Foster left, so I started looking again. I had known Coach Balcomb from Xavier, but I wasn't too serious about Xavier at the time. But I knew her and had talked to her. I came back for a couple of more visits after she came down here, and it was the same. I got along with everyone. I like the style, too, the running pace that she has, too. It was a good choice.

Cherish: My name is Cherish Stringfield, and I'm going to be number 3 this year for the Commodores. I'm from a small area, so I really didn't get much attention. But my last year playing AAU in the Boo Williams Summer League, we traveled and did a lot, and I played for a well-known coach. So that whole summer, the coaches were talking to me, trying to get me to come. On my home visit is when I knew that I wanted to come here because I had a good feel or the coaches and for the program that they had. I just had a good instinct that this is where I needed to be. And when I came on my official, I committed.

VM: Dee, I know you're called "Dee". Anybody else have any nicknames we should know about?

Cherish: I have several, but they're pretty funny. Like, a couple of my teammates call me "Slick", and "C-String", and "Jack". (Laughs.) Jutta calls me "Jack". It just came about yesterday, but she's been calling me that all day. They're pretty silly, just inside nicknames, that you probably won't hear again. My friends mostly call me "Cherish."

VM: I'd like to know more about you all, what you're like on and off the court. I know that it's sometimes hard to talk about yourself, so I thought that you all could tell me about each other. Dee, why don't you start by telling me about Cherish?

Dee: Cherish is fun. She's cool. She's silly; you can have a good time with her. She makes it fun on and off the court. She brings energy to the team where it's needed.

VM: What would you say about her game?

Dee: It's unique. Everybody has their own different style of playing, and she has great ball-handling, and she has a wonderful shot. So I would say she's a pretty good all-around player. Do you want me to talk about Carla, too?

VM: Sure. Everybody can talk about everybody.

Dee: Carla. She's a powerhouse. She snags down rebounds. She's very strong. She doesn't give up on the court. She's not intimidated at all. She's a very powerful player. I feel she's going to be a huge asset to the team coming in right away.

VM: Now you all get a chance to talk about Dee.

Carla: I'll do both of them. Dee? Dee is just like . . . Dee. She has a lot of energy, and she brings it on and off the court. She's a fireball. She'll bring intensity to a game She just has a good time. She makes basketball fun. She's real competitive, but she'll make it real fun.

And, Cherish. Cherish, that's C-String. She gets so pumped up sometimes, she just goes crazy, and it just affects everyone for good things. She really wants to play, and she puts her heart into it. I'm glad to have them for my teammates. (Passes the tape recorder to Cherish.)

Cherish: Carla Thomas. She's a wonderful person. You might think Carla is quiet, but she has a lot of energy once you get to know her. She's a fun person to be around. Off the court, she's a good friend. We're roommates.

And then Deonna. . . .

Dee: DEE! (Laughter.)

Cherish: Dee is a really cool person also. She's fun to be around. She'll make you laugh. We're all tight. We have a lot of similarities, and we have a lot of differences, too, but for the most part we get along very well. No matter what we do, we always like to fun with each other.

VM: There are seven of you who came in altogether. In the summer, you even were all in the same history class together. What do you do to make sure that you have a team of 16 teammates, rather than a group of just the seven of you?

Cherish: At first, it was like just the seven of us. But then whenever you were hanging out with your teammates, it was everyone. It was whoever was there at the time. By now, it's just a group of people hanging out all the time altogether. It's just a great group. I love you guys! (Laughter.)

VM: How is the fall different from the summer?

Dee: Well, we have two more classes on our schedule; we're taking four classes now. All the students are here on campus, so we're getting to know a lot of different people from a lot of different places. The workouts are more in tune with the whole team. In the summer, we worked out, but we didn't have just our team working out on the court. We had open games and had a lot of people coming in from different schools, but now it's mainly focused on our team, and now we can see each other and play with and against each other, and we get to bond a lot more. It's a lot better, I feel, from summer.

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Photos by Whitney D for VandyMania. Click on thumbnails for larger image.

Top: Carla Thomas, Dee Davis, and Cherish Stringfield before pickup in Memorial Gym.

Bottom: The seven freshmen at the Founders Walk on August 26. From left to right: Jenn Hall, Rachel Brockman, Katie Antony, Dee Davis, Caroline Williams, Cherish Stringfield, and Carla Thomas.

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