For Osan girls, return of senior Davis could be final piece of Class A puzzle
January 27, 2005
Michelle Chandler was braced for change.
Her Taegu American squad had had its way with Osan American the first time the girls basketball teams faced each other two weeks earlier. But the Cougars fielded only six players in that Jan. 8 game; starting shooting guard Sharon Kroening was out with an injury. And before last Saturday’s rematch, rumors flew that Mina Davis, a three-year Osan starter who transferred in June to North Carolina, was on her way back to Korea — and the Osan lineup.
“I know things will be different,” Chandler said before the game.
They were: The Cougars won 54-47. Davis scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, junior center Margaret Nurse added 20 points and 19 rebounds and Kroening scored eight points.
The Cougars were “much better” than before, Chandler said, adding that Davis’ presence makes them “complete.”
“Mina is aggressive, she gets her points and shoots well at the free-throw line. She’s another threat. Osan’s girls were really intense,” she said.
The Cougars are 9-3 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference. Davis’ return has them eying the Far East Class A Tournament throne they occupied in 2001 and ’02.
“Most of this team is made of seniors,” Davis said, “and we want to make our last year memorable. I think we’ll do pretty good.”
With Davis back, “I think we’ll be competitive, even more so, perhaps,” coach Bruce Barker said.
Her return capped an odyssey that took the slender 5-foot-9 swingman from Osan to the States and back in less than six months. Her father, Ernie, is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who’d spent the previous three years at Osan. He’d always intended to return to Korea. But the first stop after retirement was Fayetteville, N.C., where Mina found herself at Overhills High — a first-year school with an enrollment 10 times the size of Osan American’s 120 or so.
“Getting used to the school” was the biggest challenge, she said. “It had over 1,000 people and so it was hard meeting new people. But after a couple of weeks, everything was good.”
She tried out for Overhills High’s Lady Jaguars and made the varsity team.
“I felt really intimidated because the school was really big, so I figured there were going to be players bigger and better,” she said. “But I seemed to fit in well.”
Well enough to average 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists in her brief time there, including a season-high 32 points in Overhills’ 52-44 victory — the school’s first-ever — over Knightdale on Dec.1.
Rather than the disciplined, half-court system Barker used at Osan, basketball at Overhills seemed to Davis a bit more free-wheeling. “Street Ball vs. Barker Ball,” she called it.
“Mr. Barker teaches us and makes us execute our plays,” she said. “Over there, we never really worked on plays. It was more fast-break stuff.”
But “being a small person in the States playing against a lot of bigger players kind of built up my confidence,” she said.
In December, the elder Davis took a civil-service job at Camp Humphreys, just south of Osan, and the the family moved again.
Mina said she was ambivalent about leaving Osan but having earned her spot on the Lady Jaguars, she then hesitated to leave the States. “I had finally settled down in North Carolina and everything was good,” she said. “I actually liked basketball over there and meeting new people. And the shopping. But I missed Korea, too.”
Returning felt almost as if she’d never left, Davis said: “Nothing really changed.”
Except the Cougars’ performance. Osan went 4-2 its first six games; Nurse averaged 17.2 points and 12.8 rebounds. But Osan went 5-1 after Davis returned, averaging 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds. Nurse’s numbers increased to 17.7 and 15.3. And before Davis’s return, Kroening did not play in three games and scored just 16 points in the other three — but with Davis in the lineup, Kroening has averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals. The only loss was a 59-42 setback Jan. 15 against Seoul American.
“Sharon and I have played together for so long, we know what we have to work with,” Davis said.
“Most of those girls have been together for a while,” Barker said. “It helps.”
Containing the Cougars, said Chandler, is a chore — especially with the 6-4 Nurse.
“You’re not going to stop Mina, you’re not going to stop Margaret. They’re going to score,” she said. “I think we can still compete. We’re just going to have to step it up.”
Having come so close the past few years might motivate the Cougars, Davis said.
“Everyone has improved. We just have to learn from previous mistakes and move on,” she said. “I have a good feeling about KAIAC and Far East.”