Don't sell Tania Davis short
When she was 10 and competing in a basketball tournament in Florida, Tania Davis was accidentally -- but forcefully -- elbowed in the nose. And she kept right on playing.
A few days later, after she returned home to Grand Blanc, Michigan, doctors told Davis it was broken.
"She just put on a Rip Hamilton mask and went right back out and played," said Davis' equally tough mother, Keyatta Anderson, who has raised her daughter and a younger son on her own while coping with serious health issues. "You just couldn't stop her."
Davis is now 17, but nothing much has changed in that regard. The rising senior point guard at Goodrich (Grand Blanc, Michigan) is the No. 49 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class.
Listed at 5-foot-4, Davis confesses it's more like 5-3.
Not that it matters, those who know her say.
"I've never seen her get her shot blocked," said Emez Oliver, who has coached her for four years on the Michigan Crossover AAU team. "That kid plays like she is 6-3. Her size won't affect her [in college]. She's still going to shine.
"She's crafty the way she gets defenders off their feet with a hard pump fake. She has a hesitation move or she will step back and hit a jumper or cross you over and then hit a reverse layup, using the rim to protect her. She's smart.
"I'm not trying to make her walk on water, but it's poetic to watch her play."
Colleges have noticed.
Davis has scholarship offers from Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State, DePaul, Houston and Texas-El Paso, among others. She also has gotten interest of late from Rutgers and Minnesota.
But the power schools in her home state -- Michigan and Michigan State -- have not offered.
"The only thing that might be keeping her from being even more coveted is her height," said Goodrich coach Jason Gray, who has won two state titles in the past three years with Davis on his roster.
"Scoring, passing and offense are not a problem. But some college coaches are concerned about her ability to defend bigger players."
Davis said she grew up rooting for Michigan and Michigan State and would have loved to attend either school. But now that they have commitments from other point guards, she has moved on and refuses to dwell on any negatives.
"I think a lot of people doubt me because of my height, but I don't let that get to me," said Davis, whose first name is pronounced Ta-NYE-ah. "Sometimes I wonder if I would have gotten more offers if I were taller, but I use that as motivation to step up my game and prove the doubters wrong."
Davis said anyone who thinks she will back down from a bigger opponent probably doesn't know what she and her family have overcome.
She is being raised by Anderson, a 35-year-old corrections officer who learned at age 17 that she had a heart condition. Doctors told her she would likely need a pacemaker by the age of 70 or 80.
They were off by a few decades.
On Nov. 8, 2012, doctors operated on Anderson and inserted a pacemaker. The shortness of breath and headaches Anderson lived with before the procedure are now gone, and Davis is more than just grateful.
"Because of what my mom went through, I now want to become a cardiologist," said Davis, who also lives with her 11-year-old brother, Tyson. "I became fascinated [with the field]."
Davis, who has a 3.5 GPA, has been tested various times and does not have the "complete heart block" condition her mother suffered from.
Anderson said she is fine with her daughter leaving Michigan for college and actually prefers it, because it will give Davis the opportunity to see something new.
Davis said she wants to decide by the end of September and has trips lined up to DePaul in August and West Virginia and Iowa the following month.
After she makes her pick, it will be time to play her final season of high school ball. She has started since the playoffs of her freshman season, when she helped Goodrich finish 28-0 and win the Class B state title.
Gray said he waited until the shootaround before the district final game against their biggest rival, Flint Powers Catholic, to tell Davis she was starting.
"She was about as cool as any player I've ever seen," Gray said. "She just said, 'OK.' She doesn't show much emotion until the games.
"But once we're playing -- some of my favorite memories of her are her fist pumps, especially when a teammate scores. I swear she gets more excited when a teammate scores than when she does."
During Davis' sophomore season, three Goodrich players suffered season-ending knee injuries by January. But Davis and Taylor Gleason, now a 5-8 guard at Illinois, "put the team on their back," according to Gray, and they repeated as state champs.
Last season, with Gleason gone, Goodrich finished 22-3 and lost to Flint Powers Catholic in the regional final. Davis averaged 21 points and 4 assists. She also eclipsed 1,000 career points and is nearing the school record of 1,492.
"She's not the tallest, but she is one of the best players if not the best player I've ever played with," said Goodrich teammate Alexis Sevillian, a rising junior guard. "She uses her quickness to beat people off the dribble."
Oliver, her AAU coach, said Davis has shown extreme commitment to his program, driving one hour from Grand Blanc to Detroit and one hour back for the team's four practices per week.
"She hasn't missed one practice all year," Oliver said. "We have kids who live 10 minutes away, and they don't always show up."
Oliver said he is aware that a lot of AAU teams have tried to steal her away.
"There are a lot of buzzards in this game -- street agents who say, 'Come play for us.' But she won't jump ship," he said. "She's a great and loyal person, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
"She won't just make it in basketball. She is going to make it in life."