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January 11, 2011

COACH-IN-WAITING - After a solid career as Tech's point guard, Nikki Davis hopes her future is in coaching

By: Marc Mullen

Nikki Davis gets direction from head coach Dunkenberger.

When Nikki Davis walked into the Elkhorn Middle School gymnasium in the fall of 1998, the youngster wasn’t expecting a lot to come out of the basketball tryout. Susan Tracy, the team’s coach, encouraged Davis to attend, but since Davis had never really picked up a ball before, she was nervous and didn’t know how she compared to the other girls.

She ended up making the team that season and, as the tallest player on the squad, played the forward position. But unlike most 11-year-olds who are still thinking about wanting to be a doctor, a lawyer or maybe an astronaut when they grow up, she made a decision that day that put her on a path for a career in basketball.

“I started playing basketball in the sixth grade, which, in Kentucky, is very late,” Davis said. “So I end up playing, and from there, I went on. Fortunately enough, I had some of the greatest coaches in middle school and mentors that helped me stick with it and develop and come to love the game of basketball.”

That tall forward grew into a 5-foot-7 point guard who, along the way, had an historic four-year high school career in the state of Kentucky, played one season at the University of Alabama and is now in her final season of her college competition at Virginia Tech.

With only a couple of months left in her collegiate career, Davis has one remaining goal – to play in a collegiate postseason tournament.

“That’s always been a goal of mine, and unfortunately, I’ve never gotten to do that,” Davis said. “So, my last go-round, that’s what we are fighting for. Whether we have to do that in any way we can, that’s our main objective.

“Individually, I just want to have fun and enjoy this game that I love. There are records that you can chase after, but at this point, I’m never really big on stats. I just want to get the job done. I’m not saying I don’t want the credit or anything. I just want to be able to enjoy it and have fun and win.”

Davis hopes the love and passion for the game that started more than 12 years ago will translate into a future in the business. Whether she starts out playing overseas, or if she continues with her education and becomes a graduate assistant, Davis wants ultimately to be a Division I head coach.

“I will probably have to go home at some period of time, but what I’d like to do when I’m finished playing is to be a coach,” she said. “I hope the road ahead of me is coaching. That’s my passion and that’s really something that I am interested in and hoping that I can do.”

“Nikki definitely has the ability to play professionally overseas,” Virginia Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said. “While there is more demand for post players than guards in the European leagues, she is skilled and can score.

“Also, she has always expressed her desire to become a college coach one day. She brings high energy and a great enthusiasm for the game. Those traits will help make her a good recruiter and coach.”

Nikki Davis takes advantage of every opportunity afforded to her that can assist in pursuing her future profession. Here, she studies film with assistant coach Shellie Greenman.

Since coming to Blacksburg, Davis has taken advantage of a couple of opportunities related to her future endeavor. After transferring from Alabama to Virginia Tech, she had to sit out a season according to NCAA regulations. Then, this year, she has been mentoring a pair of underclassmen at the point guard position.

“It was a long year of just practicing, weights and running, and not playing,” Davis said in response to sitting out the 2007-08 season. “It helped me be more of a coach and learn our offenses, how to make reads in them, and learn the way things needed to be run.

“I wanted to make sure I made the most out of that year that I had to sit out. I was always just trying to learn and find some positives in it.”

And in mentoring the younger guards, she said, “Kyani [White] works hard and she always wants to learn more. She’s not afraid to challenge me in practice whether it be playing really tight defense or asking questions all the time.

“Aerial [Wilson] is a scoring machine. So I am just trying to teach her certain things, too. I’m trying to help them and show them things, and they both have been very receptive to it. I learned through my experiences as well as what coaches and other players have taught me.”

The pair should soak in as much advice from the departing senior as they can since her credentials include helping Lexington Catholic High School to four straight championship title games, becoming only the second school in the state of Kentucky’s history to achieve that. Lexington Catholic won back-to-back state championships her junior and senior seasons, and earned a final national ranking of sixth after the 2005 season and third in 2006. Also, the school retired her No. 12 jersey, making her one of just six players at the school to receive that honor.

At Tech, she enjoyed a career-high (at the time) 11-assist night as the Hokies upset 10th-ranked North Carolina 79-64 on Jan. 14 of last year, poured in a career-high 29 points in a 73-69 victory at Miami 10 days later, and just last month, upped her career high to 12 assists, one shy of the single-game school record. She added 16 points for her first collegiate double-double in a 94-78 double overtime win at William & Mary earlier this season.

“I think the UNC upset is probably my favorite since I didn’t have one single assist in that Miami game,” Davis said about her time, so far, at Virginia Tech.

For her career as a Hokie, Davis is closing in on the top 10 list in career assists and steals. Entering the new year, she was averaging 5.4 assists per game, which put her tied for 29th in the nation, and her 254 assists were 63 shy of the top 10. Meanwhile, she was also tied for 39th in the country in steals per game (2.9), and her 128 career steals were just 29 shy of putting her name onto that list.

“I’m not really a stats person, but I wish that I would have been able to play all four years at one university and been able to see how well I would have done statistically,” said Davis. “It’s an honor and it’s great to be mentioned with those girls, but I really don’t think about it too much. I just play.”