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Highlights of top 2013 recruit Kaela Davis of Buford High School. The 6-1 guard committed to Georgia Tech.
Buford GA -- It’s the second week of practice at Buford High School, a perennial power in the state of Georgia, team that has won three out of the last four 2A girls’ basketball state championships.
Coach Gene Durden’s thick North Georgia accent, which the freshmen are still trying to decipher, barks out instructions as the girls sprint back and fourth during a transition drill. Kaela Davis, the crown jewel of this year’s squad, glides through the defense with a combination crossover, jump-hop and finishes with a floater. The brilliant offensive play sends Durden into a tirade against the defender who allowed Davis to score. But most know even the best defenders in the state would be hard pressed to stop the pure athleticism of “KD”, as her friends call her.
Davis, rated the No. 3 recruit in the 2013 class, has been the center of attention not only in Georgia, but also across the nation as virtually every women’s basketball program in America has offered the 6-1 guard a scholarship. On Nov. 1, she announced her decision to play for Georgia Tech, a move that for many came out of left field.
The daughter of retired NBA player Antonio Davis, and goddaughter of WNBA star Candace Parker, had committed to Tennessee asa freshman, and by the amount of blue and orange in her custom-designed bedroom, and the dozens of unofficial visits to Rocky Top, everyone expected her to be the next all-American to pass through Thompson Boling Arena.
But Davis shocked the Tennessee faithful in February when she re-opened the recruiting process just five months after Pat Summitt announced she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. The move brought about a flurry of criticism against Davis and sparked discussions that things were unraveling in Knoxville.
Three days after de-committing, Buford played rival Greater Atlanta Christian and over a dozen college coaches were sandwiched in the packed gym, all hoping get in on the re-ignited recruiting war for Davis.
“It was wild,” said Kaela of the experience. “I was like, what have I got myself into?”
Eight months later, where Davis planned play college basketball was still a great mystery. The only official visit she had taken was to Tennessee, and Big Orange fans began thinking, after all the fan-fair, Davis would be a Lady Vol. Then, late in the month of October, MaChelle Joseph, in her 10th year at the helm for the Georgia Tech, received a call from Kaela, informing her that the Yellow Jackets had made her final list of schools, along with Duke and Tennessee.
That weekend Davis was on campus for an official visit, getting the royal treatment from the entire team and coaching staff. “Going into the visit, I told my mom I didn’t think I was going to like it,” admits Davis, who lives just 30 miles from the campus. “But the girls on the team were awesome and the coaches were awesome.”
“I think every kid envisions saying bye to mom and dad and them sending you off, but Tech has a really cool campus and it’s even cooler because it’s in downtown Atlanta.”
On that visit, Davis got the tour of the McCamish Pavilion, which just re-opened after a $40 million state-of-the-art renovation. Joseph pointed to the empty rafters, where a female Yellow Jacket has yet to have her jersey retired, and told Davis she wanted hers to be the first -- a feat not out of reach if Kaela can meet the school’s requirement of becoming the first All-ACC and all-American for the program.
Georgia Tech has been on a steady an upward trajectory. The Jackets have had six consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins and six straight NCAA appearances. Last season, tTech won a school-record 26 games, played in just the second ACC championship game in school history and advanced to the program's first NCAA Sweet 16 (losing there to Baylor).
A player of Davis’ caliber is just what the Jackets need to continue that upward trend. “Her pitch was, do something different, do something that not a lot of people are willing to do,” says Davis about the prospect of being the program changer for Georgia Tech. “It would be easy to go to some of these other schools where someone has already left their mark and someone has already done the dirty work. I don’t necessarily want easy.
“I’m not saying any of the other players out there are taking the easy way out, because college basketball is hard, but I think Georgia Tech is a tougher option than some of the other schools.”
Davis also had high praise of Joseph and how she handled the team. “MaChelle, she’s great, she’s just a ball of energy. It was really cool to see her interacting in practice. She’s always in someone’s butt about every little thing; she’ll get into you. But as soon as she comes off the floor she’s a great lady and I think that was one thing that was important to me, that we could have that relationship on and off the floor.”
A few days after her official visit, Joseph stopped by Buford practice to hand-deliver tickets to the upcoming Tennessee game, not in Knoxville, but on the campus of Georgia Tech. Davis thanked Joseph for the tickets then said she was ready to commit to the Yellow Jackets. Joseph’s reaction was priceless.
“She was so excited, I got picked up and carried around the court. Her little short self picked me up, and after that she was in tears,” says Davis. “It felt good to see that kind of excitement and it fires you up. I’m really excited about it.”
Davis admits breaking the news to Candace Parker, a two time All-American and national champion for the University of Tennessee was a little tough. “She dogged me a little bit and she had Lailaa (her daughter) singing Rocky Top, but at the end of the day she was like a big sister and was completely supportive about it.”
Davis always aspired to follow in Parker’s footsteps, which was part of the reason she committed to Tennessee at such a young age. “I grew up around Tennessee and I’m real close with Pat and the staff. It was my dream school”, says Davis about choosing Tech over Tennessee. “The biggest conversation I had with my parents is how hard it’s going to be to NOT see myself in a Tennessee uniform. I’ve gotta move on.”
The first few days after committing to Georgia Tech, Davis once again was under heavy criticism on Twitter and in women’s basketball forums. “People think I’m going to go to Georgia Tech and never be heard from again,” says Kaela about the backlash. “That’s just not true. Going to Georgia Tech, I can make a difference. Had I gone to Tennessee, I would be one more person in a long list to do great things at Tennessee, if I go to Georgia Tech, then the school gets noticed.
“I want to change the scene a little bit. I want little girls to say, ‘It’s my dream to go to Georgia Tech’.”
Highlights of Kaela Davis from the 2010-11 season when the Buford Lady Wolves won their third consecutive state championship.
Davis was also part of a "The Season" a full feature documentary on the 2010-11 Buford Lady Wolves (click here to watch The Season)
- Kaela Davis Highlite Reel
- Kaela Davis
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