Originally published in The Fordham Ram on February 1, 2017.
“I’ll never forget when we went out paintballing as a team,” said Fordham Women’s Basketball head coach Stephanie Gaitley. “A lot of times, I know with me, when there’s an uncertainty of what you’re doing, there’s fear. I didn’t see any fear. She was like, ‘Give me the gun. I’m going out there.’ It didn’t matter if she was going to get hit, there was no fear factor.”
G’mrice Davis is fearless. That much is abundantly clear when you watch the 6’2” junior forward from Philadelphia on the court. She crashes the boards with abandon, takes on bigger opponents down low and bullies her way to the rim with ease.
Back when she was recruiting Davis, known to the team as simply “G,” Gaitley was most excited about her potential.
“G was always just such a great athlete. In talking to her AAU coach, he would talk about how just athletic she was. I was just so impressed with her rebounding,” said Gaitley. “I just felt like if you could take her rebounding and her athletic ability and I thought she could be a really special 4 player in our system.”
As a freshman, Davis showed flashes of her incredible talent. In just her second game as a Ram, she missed a double-double against #24/25 Syracuse with nine points and 10 rebounds. Despite playing just 528 minutes that first season, Davis still racked up 142 rebounds, good for fourth on the team.
However, the G’mrice Davis playing that 2014-15 season was not her in her peak form. “I was very confident in high school. And then I came here and in my freshman year my confidence level kind of went down because I’m like, “Hey, these girls are bigger. These girls are stronger. These girls are faster, they’re smarter,’” said Davis.
“I had to really look into myself and pull out the good things about me and once I really started to work on that and focus in on what I can do instead of what everyone else can do my confidence just started to build.”
It was clear that her confidence had taken a step forward her sophomore year. Starting every game (outside of the final three due to injury), her averages jumped from 6.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game to 9.7 and 7.4 respectively. She finished the season with six double-doubles.
Despite the massive growth between her freshman and sophomore years Davis still had plenty to learn, and a lot of that came from starting alongside Samantha Clark, one of the top forwards in Fordham Women’s Basketball history.
“I learned a whole lot about help defense. That was Sam’s big thing, help,” said Davis. “So I knew that if I had to play the 5 this year, I would have to learn my positions, when and when not to help, where to be.”
But the improvement heading into her junior year did not stop on the defensive end. “I worked a lot, a lot, a lot on my footwork. I struggled my freshman and sophomore year with footwork because I never was a back-to-the-basket post player. I just wanted to get the ball at the high post and drive or ram into people,” said Davis. “It was very hard picking up on the footwork at first but all summer I focused on my footwork and working on using my left hand a lot more.”
But if you ask Gaitley, it is not the improvements defensively or with her footwork that has elevated Davis’s game.
“To be honest, I think it’s her mindset. I think she’s changed her mindset on everything. You see her improving in the classroom. You can see her improving in her relationship with her teammates and her coaches. And I think it’s all as a result of why she’s improving on the court.”
Gaitley added, “I just think she has grown leaps and bounds this year as a person, not just as a player. And I think a lot of the reason she has grown as a player is because she’s grown so much as a person.”
If you put together an improved defensive game, better footwork, a better mindset and already solid rebounding skills, what do you get? The 2016-17 iteration of G’mrice Davis, the one averaging a double-double at 14.6 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game. The one second in the country with 286 rebounds. The one with 14 double-doubles.
“She’s obviously been our most consistent player all year. It’s funny, there’d be times after games where I’d think, “Man, G wasn’t all here today” and it’d be 15 and 12,” said Gaitley.
Davis has been the linchpin for the 15-8 Rams, who are fourth in the Atlantic 10 with a 6-3 conference record. The offense goes as Davis goes more often than not, and without her on the court the team suffers defensively. This was an issue early in the season, when Davis was routinely in foul trouble, but she’s curtailed the foul trouble as of late, logging back-to-back 40 minute games last week.
“I’m getting very accustomed to the 40 minutes. Before she was playing me a lot of minutes and I was getting tired, getting in foul trouble. That was a big thing for me,” said Davis. “But now, you know, I’m accustomed to playing so many minutes and the team relying on me so much. So now, I’m more confident, a lot more calm, and things have just been flowing.”
The Rams are in the middle of a three-game skid after losses to St. Joseph’s, VCU and St. Louis. Davis has logged double-doubles in all three of those games. With someone like Davis on the court, it is a fair bet to guess the streak will not last for too much longer.
“I still don’t think she’s completely reached her potential. I think there’s still that little window of growth for her. I told her, “Do you want to be all-league or do you want to be player of the year?” It’s funny that now that’s the next conversation. “Where are we headed with this? Be content with being one of the best, or be the best?’”