At 6-foot-3, sophomore center Erica Davis’s presence on the court is dominating.
Her blocks are the most telling statistic of her impact in the paint. She leads the team with 31 blocks over 13 games. In addition, her swats serve as a rallying cry for her teammates. Davis punctuated Yale’s recent victory over Delaware State with five blocks, her last one coming down the stretch to maintain the Bulldogs’ lead. She has quick hands, fast enough to amass a team-high 23 steals, yet soft enough to catch passes in traffic. Her rebounding is also a major strength — Davis grabs 7.5 boards a game, with 65 of her 98 rebounds coming on defense. She is a natural athlete and in her element when she is on the floor.
And basketball is not all she excels at. Davis also throws discus for the track team in the spring. Last April, she won the Penn-Princeton double meet with a toss of 135 feet. While the burdens of two varsity sports along with a full class load may seem daunting, Davis brushes these concerns off.
“The weekend meets and classes were hard,” she commented on balancing her workload. “But I loved every minute of it.”
Davis added that she derives a large part of her enjoyment from the process of improving. Even though she was awarded the Ivy League rookie of the week award twice last season and earned honorable mention all-Ivy status her freshman season, Davis views her game as a work in progress.
“It’s always a progression,” she said. “And I don’t think I’ve reached my potential.”
She has an eye for perfection, but does not let the pressure weigh her down. In games, she said one of the areas she seeks to improve in is her focus. As she tries to be more aware of her teammates and make the most out of every second she is in the game, Davis hopes to increase the amount of time she plays at her maximum potential.
“My expectation is to work as hard as I can all the time,” she said. “I have to keep my concentration up, and make sure I don’t take a possession off.”
Head coach Amy Backus echoed Davis’s thoughts — and likewise has high expectations for her star center.
“Erica is a really fantastic player, but she needs to learn consistency to be a dominant player,” she said. “She could dominate our league — if she wanted to, she could go pro.”
She said she envisions Davis averaging almost 20 points a game with rebound figures in the double digits. Backus cited many of Davis’s skills — her deceptive quickness, great hands, soft touch, and size — that make her such an asset for the Bulldogs.
Backus also praised her work ethic but observed that Davis may need more mental discipline.
“She works hard in practice,” she said. “But she’s inconsistent in terms of what she brings to the game sometimes.”
Backus added that at times it seems as though the game’s frustrations wear on Davis. To date, Yale is 3-11, and the team has frequently fallen behind in the first half of its games. A more aggravating statistic is the turnover ratio — the Elis turn the ball over about one and a half times more than opponents. The guards’ occasional inability to get Davis the ball makes it more difficult for her to play her game, Backus said.
Right now, the Bulldogs appear to be pulling their season together. They have won two of their last four games, doing so with a slimmer turnover deficit of 44-35 in those two wins.
“The team is in a crucial growth period,” Davis said. “We have to be at a high level to win. We’ve had our ups and downs, but once we hit our stride, we’ll have those tough games.”