COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jessica Davenport came to Ohio State as a
shy girl trying to get comfortable in her 6-foot-5 frame while
learning to use it as leverage on a basketball court.
She hopes she leaves celebrating at midcourt with her friends, a
net draped around her neck and a trophy in her grasp. That's about
all she hasn't accomplished.
The most decorated Buckeyes player ever, Davenport enters her
senior season with perhaps her best chance at finally playing in a
Final Four, just up the road next April at Quicken Loans Arena in
"I want to just be the best player I can be,'' Davenport said
of her legacy. "I don't go out there thinking about what award I
can win this year. Just being around my teammates and being able
to practice every day and being healthy -- that's enough for me.
Wherever I fall in history, that's where I am.''
Davenport, who has averaged 17 points and eight rebounds for her
career, is a two-time first-team Associated Press All-American and
the Big Ten's player of the year the past two seasons. She has
played on teams that have gone 80-18, won two conference titles and
a Big Ten tournament title and have played in three NCAA
But on two of those trips, the Buckeyes, ranked No. 7 in the
preseason, lost to Boston College in the second round. As a
sophomore, Davenport and the Buckeyes advanced to the regional
semifinals before falling to Rutgers -- a team they had beaten at
home earlier in the season.
Coach Jim Foster, back for his fifth year at Ohio State, said
there is no lingering effect from the latest NCAA Tournament
"Only one team ends the season the way you'd like to,'' he
said. "So if you dwell on other areas, you're just sort of
spinning your wheels.''
The key points the Buckeyes dwell on as they enter another new
season is the continuing health of guard Brandie Hoskins, meshing
with six new players in the rotation and dealing with a killer
Hoskins tore an Achilles' tendon late in the tournament defeat
and spent the rest of the spring and summer rehabbing. She has
apparently conquered an injury that not so long ago left an athlete
barely able to walk after six months. Now she's slashing her way
through the lane in practice this fall just like she did before.
Foster lost several key components from last year's team
including starting power forward Debbie Merrill and point guards
Ashley Allen and Kim Wilburn. He begins his 29th year as a Division
I head coach shuffling five freshmen and acclaimed transfer Ashlee
Trebilcock into the mix.
Andrea Walker, an athletic 6-5 center from West Allegheny, Pa.,
will learn from Davenport while trading elbows with her in
practice. Foster says he might even put them together on the floor
from time to time -- a daunting prospect for any team hoping to get
a rebound or a shot in the paint.
Maria Moeller, a 5-7 coach-on-the-floor from Maria Stein, Ohio,
will handle the point while vets Stephanie Blanton, Star Allen,
Alice Jamen and Tamarah Riley provide support underneath for
Trebilcock, who becomes eligible in early December, was one of
the top recruits in the nation a year ago but left UCLA after
playing just four games.
"UCLA's school is awesome. But once I got there I just realized
that I didn't fit into the program. People can believe whatever
they want, but it was not a playing-time thing or anything,'' said
Trebilcock, declining to go into any more detail.
Foster believes that Trebilcock, adept at hitting pull-up
jumpers, will be a potent force on the perimeter along with
Marscilla Packer, the top 3-point field-goal shooter last year in
the Big Ten (46 percent).
"We definitely have a lot more scorers from the guard positions
this year,'' said Packer, who averaged 10.8 points a game,
third-best on the team behind Davenport's 18.7 and Hoskins' 12.3.
In an effort to muscle up for the postseason, Foster loaded up
the schedule with bullies. The non-league portion includes home
games with USC and NCAA nemesis Boston College. They also play road
games against heavyweights LSU and Oklahoma.
"Playing a tough schedule is always advantageous,'' said
Foster, who has a 606-253 mark at Ohio State, Saint Joseph's and
Vanderbilt. "This year we have a very difficult schedule, but we
have good players so we should have a tough schedule.''
The Buckeyes have plenty of good players -- and one great one.
Asked what is left for her to accomplish, Davenport doesn't
waste time. She knows she doesn't have much left in her college
"A national championship,'' she said.