Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Key to Duncanville girls hoops star, Texas signee Empress Davenport becoming one of Dallas area's best
DUNCANVILLE — Empress Davenport values punctuality and calls herself a “neat freak.” The Duncanville senior guard is also very organized and makes sure her hair, nails and clothes are always coordinated.
She’s a perfectionist, and that makes it easier to believe that she didn’t start playing basketball until she was 11 years old. When you morph from basketball newbie to one of the state’s top players in only seven years, attention to detail is a must.
“For as much talent as she brings to the game,” Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan said, “she started pretty late.”
Davenport, who has signed with Texas, started really late by today’s standards. She wasn’t on a select team by age 9 or 10, and although she played for her sixth-grade team, she decided not to play in seventh grade.
So how do you explain the rapid rise?
One big clue is in how Davenport describes her biggest improvement since freshman year.
“I listen more,” Davenport said. “When you grow up, you realize the coaches know what they’re talking about.”
In other words, she’s made herself coachable.
“She’s talented, she’s smart, she listens and she fixes things,” Self-Morgan said. “So much of the time kids start playing when they’re 5, but they don’t open their ears to listen and their games don’t elevate.”
Davenport’s game certainly has. The 5-9 guard averages 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for Duncanville (23-1), which is No. 3 in the Class 5A state rankings. She was also the MVP of last week’s Sandra Meadows Classic, but the stretch of five games in three days led to a sore foot that kept her out of Duncanville’s win over Midlothian on Tuesday. She expects to be back next week.
Davenport hasn’t missed many games in her four years on the varsity. But she did miss time as a freshman when her competitiveness got her in trouble.
“Lots of technical fouls,” she said. “I was a hothead.”
Now Davenport is in charge of keeping Duncanville cool under pressure. One way she does it is with a sense of humor that keeps the team loose.
“We’re all goofy, so we crack each other up with jokes,” she said. “It never gets old. Even on the court, we crack jokes.”
Davenport and fellow senior guard Morgan Bolton, who started playing together when they were 11, lead another talented Duncanville team. The Pantherettes have won six state titles, but their last state appearance was in 2004.
“I think this team can get it done,” Davenport said, and she’s the right player to lead the team there. Self-Morgan led Austin Westlake to three state titles and Duncanville to its last one in 2003, and even she’s wowed by the player Davenport has become.
Davenport can do everything a basketball player needs to do. She can shoot from the outside, drive and finish, find open teammates, rebound and play tough defense.
But from Self-Morgan’s perspective, it’s Davenport’s personality that makes her really special.
“She’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached, but she also has a great sense of humor, and that brings a good atmosphere to this team,” the coach said. “I’ve had a lot of individuals in 34 years that have had different parts of the package, but not the whole package.”