Have You Seen Her? Liberty C Jessica Davenport

NEW YORK, June 3, 2007 -- There are plenty of expectations that come with being the second pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft. Those expectations are multiplied when your team trades All-Star and fan favorite Becky Hammon to get you. Needless to say, the New York Liberty are planning on a great deal of production out of rookie center Jessica Davenport.

Just several months removed from starring at Ohio State where she was a two-time All-American and the only three-time Big Ten Player of the Year in conference history, the Columbus, Ohio native has been contributing more and more for New York at both ends of the court. Sunday, Davenport completed a game-winning three-point play with 6.9 seconds remaining against the Mercury to earn an 83-82 win and helping the Liberty improve to 4-0 on the young season.

She spoke after the game with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield about how she got her start in basketball and what continues to drive her as she begins her professional career.

Q. How did you get your start playing basketball?

LIBERTY COACH COYLE CONFIDENT IN ROOKIE
Cappie Pondexter makes a tiebreaking layup with 10.3 seconds left to give the Phoenix Mercury an 82-80 lead over the New York Liberty in Sunday afternoon's matchup.

The Liberty call timeout and set up their final play to try to tie or win the game. Liberty head coach Pay Coyle calls upon rookie center Jessica Davenport to take the final shot for the home team.

The ball is inbounded and immediately passed to the 6-foot-5 Davenport in the post. With an eight-inch height advantage over the 5-9 Pondexter, Davenport turns and shoots over the top of the defender.

The shot is good and Davenport is fouled by Pondexter, setting up a chance at a three-point play. She connects on the free throw, giving the Liberty an 83-82 advantage. The Liberty hang on for the win to remain unbeaten on the season through four games.

"It feels great especially hitting it in a place like the Garden," said Davenport about hitting the game-winner. "I could feel the energy and it definitely feels good to give the fans something to cheer about."

Coyle did not hesitate on calling upon the rookie to take the final shot with the game on the line.

"I didn't even look at it like that," Coyle said. "It's the play that we run, she's the five player and the five player is going to get the shot. That play was drawn up for her.

"I couldn't be more happy with being able to throw the ball into someone that will do something with it in the paint. I have all of the confidence in the world in her. It's obvious. We run the last play for her."

Davenport finished the game with 15 points, none bigger than the final three. Coyle was confident enough in the rookie to call upon her on Sunday and has been impressed with Davenport's growth so far this season.

"She's a true, legitimate center," Coyle said. "She's 6-5, has real low lines and she's got skill. I've taken her out of her comfort zone right now, so she's been struggling a little bit for us. Once she gets into the flow of things (and learns) how it is played at this level, she's going to be better off in the long run and so are we."

By Brian Martin, WNBA.com

A. "It was in seventh grade, that's when we started playing at our school. I was the tallest one in our school, about 6-1, and everyone kept asking me if I was going to play. I said, 'No, I don't want to play.' I just wasn't into it. But when tryouts rolled around, I decided to come out and I liked it. I had a lot of friends on the team, so at that point it was more of a social thing. Then after that, I got more into it."

Q. Were your parents supportive of your decision to play?
A.
"Oh yeah, they went to every game. All of the schools we played were pretty close together, so they'd go to all of the games in the little radius around where we lived. They were very supportive."

Q. What was your inspiration back then to get out on the court?
A.
"I just had fun with it. I like to have fun with whatever I do. I don't want to do something I don't like. I had fun with it and the people were great, so I stayed with it."

Q. What about now as a pro? What is your inspiration at this point in your career?
A.
"I love the game. I love to compete. I love the atmosphere, especially when you're playing at home and the crowd is behind you. I also enjoy the camaraderie on the team and the competition."

Q. What motivates you in training and in practice? What are you thinking when you get up to run early in the morning?
A.
"I want to be the best I can be. I've had conversations with (Liberty coach) Patty (Coyle) about achieving those goals. She told me some things I need to do to succeed at the pro level and I've tried to do them and work on them. But in the back of my mind, I'm always trying to be the best I can be. That's what drives me."

Q. Describe your typical training session. Are you into lifting weights or do you do a lot of cardio?
A.
"In high school and college, the focus was on cardio and running. And this offseason, I'll probably be doing more of the same with my old strength trainer at Ohio State."

Q. What's the biggest bit of adversity you've faced to this point in your pro career?
A.
"Being in a new role. I'm not always playing on the block and I'm moving around a lot more. Not being in my comfort zone: that's the biggest challenge for me right now."

Q. How do you overcome that adversity?
A.
"Keep doing it. Keep working at it. I don't want to shy away from something I'm not good at. I want to get better at it. So I'll just keep going at it."

Q. Who has been the most inspirational person in your basketball career?
A.
"Ooooh, that's hard! I'll say two. My AAU coach, but he got me out there. We traveled a lot in Ohio, and we had a lot of fun with him. The other is my coach at Ohio State, Coach (Jim) Foster. He really taught me a lot about the game and we had a great relationship."

Q. Do you have a quote, motto or mantra that you live by?
A.
"I always say you have to love what you do to want to do it every day. If you don't like what you're doing, you're going to moan about getting up to do it every day. And I love playing basketball. I might not always love getting up early to play it, but I love the game, so it's worth it."

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