FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On every trip to the free-throw line, and at the end of every nail-biter or blowout, it never fails, Davante Provost always positions his feet, takes a deep breath and tells his mother, Shirley, that he loves her.
“Always,” said Provost, a senior combo guard at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.). “It makes me relax a lot more when I do that. It’s like she’s still here with me.”
Every little bit helps when you're playing in a premiere showcase like the City of Palms Classic which started Friday. The Wolverines lost their first two games and will play Lake Wales (Lake Wales, Fla.) Wednesday at 10:40 a.m. E.T. in their final game.
“It’s a tough tournament, there's no doubt about it,” Provost said. “It will be good to have my mother there in spirit.”
Provost was just 5 when his mother died of congestive heart failure in 1999, but outside of his 11 brothers and sisters crying hysterically, the “worst day” of his life is somewhat of a blur.
“I really just remember being confused because everyone was crying,” Provost said. “It’s like I knew what happened, but I didn’t really understand.”
What Provost does remember is his delayed reaction. It wasn’t until four years later that the full brunt of Shirley’s passing hit him suddenly.
“I remember that I just started crying,” Provost said. “I wanted to know where she was. It’s like I knew she wasn’t coming back, but I was so young I guess it didn’t really register. It was rough. I needed an outlet.”
Provost started playing basketball with his older brother, Devon, initially just to past the time. But as the pair continued to duke it out on the court, Provost began to realize that he was becoming less and less stricken with grief over the absence of his mom.
Provost was having fun again, and countless hours on the blacktop meant he was too preoccupied to get into trouble on Oakland, California's sometimes rough streets.
“There’s plenty of trouble to get in to in Oakland,” said Provost’s father Ernest. “It started getting worse and worse, and I knew I had to get them out of there. I decided it was time to move. So we left for Atlanta before his eighth grade year.”
Added Provost: “I had about five friends get killed just being in the streets. It was really bad there. I wasn’t sad to leave.”
Not as long as he had somewhere to hoop.
There was something about the hardwood that made him feel closer to his mother, ironic since she was never really in to sports.
“It’s weird,” Provost said. “I think basketball made me feel closer to her because I know she’d be proud of the things I’m doing on the court.”
Provost has accomplished a lot.
As a sixth man and part-time starter for the Wolverines, who are ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, Provost is averaging six points and a team-best four steals a game. He’s helped Miller Grove win three-consecutive state titles and is the Wolverines’ best on-ball defender.
“He’s a big part of our success, that’s for sure,” said Miller Grove coach Sharman White. “It’s obvious that he’s just so grateful out there. He plays with an energy that becomes infectious on the court. He adds so much to our team already.”
Added Provost: “I’ve definitely learned not to take things for granted. I’m just happy to be able to play this game that I love. I feel like my mom’s there with me. I try to make her proud with everything that I do on the court.”