By Porscha Weddington
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
To the outside world a young player can be perceived as risky to the overall success of a team. Many question how young players have the tools, maturity and basketball savvy to have a successful and rewarding season on a collegiate level. The Kansas women's basketball program graduated four seniors last season and many wondered how the team was going to bounce back.
Sophomore captain Carolyn Davis was excited to show the world who the Jayhawks were and believed that youth is not a problem for her team, but is actually beneficial.
"I do not think that youth has anything to do with how our season is going. I think that it is a good thing to have a young team because they are resilient and never give up," Davis said. "We are a team hungry to learn and win and being young is a plus because we have a lot of great players. Youth has nothing to do with it."
The Houston, Texas, native has seen a significant amount of success in her short career as a Jayhawk. Entering the week, Davis not only leads her team in points per game and field goal percentage, but is ranked first in the conference in field goal percentage and ranked fifth in points per game.
Despite the success that Davis has personally achieved, the Jayhawks have had a rough start in Big 12 competition. However, regardless of the adversity that her team has faced, Davis is continuing to persevere and believes that through her experience and vocal leadership she will be able to motivate and rally her team together.
"I have tried to be a vocal leader, but also lead by example. I try to show them the right things to do through my actions. I believe if they see me doing the right things then they in return will do them also," said Davis, who is one of four sophomores to captain the Jayhawks this season. "We need to stick together as a team and buy into what the coaches are telling us to do. We need to work hard everyday in practice and that will get us to where we need to be."
Davis' hard work has not gone unnoticed. Kansas assistant women's basketball coach Tori Verdi is in his first season with the team, but is not shy about discussing the work ethic and leadership skills that his young superstar possesses.
"Every day she comes to practice ready to work hard. She is going to continue to develop over time," Verdi said. "It is great as a coach to walk onto the court and see Carolyn there early working on her individual moves and working to get better. I think that a lot of the things that she has been saying on the floor like 'We need to remain focused and we need to come to practice every single day ready to work hard' are very important. Some of her messages have been if you work hard then it will equal success."
Some individuals, when selected to lead their team, can see holding their teammates accountable and pushing the program's goals as a challenge. But for Davis, it is an opportunity to guide her team to an NCAA and national championship win. Davis understood that being a captain was not going to win many popularity awards, however, she is not intimidated by being a young captain because she feels that she is the best candidate to accomplish her team's goals.
"As a team our goal is to get some quality wins that can put us in the rankings for going to the tournament. We want to have a 20-win season and that means that we need to beat some ranked opponents, and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure we achieve our goal," Davis said.
"I bring experience, but at the same time I can show the freshman that even though you do not play in the beginning, through hard work and perseverance you can earn a spot on the court. I believe with that comes real life experience, and they can relate with me. I can show them how to be strong, stick it out and keep working hard.
Verdi feels that Davis not only brings a lot to her team from a scoring and defensive standpoint, but has stepped up as a leader to keep her team focused during the middle of Big 12 competition.
"I always think when a team is facing adversity they are looking for someone to step up and be a voice and that is something that Carolyn has done and needs to continue to do," Verdi said. "I think that when you are young and asked to be a captain at such a young age there is a lot of pressure on you because you are not there to be everybody's best friend. You are there to hold people accountable and sometimes that is a touch position for someone who is sophomore, but I think that she is doing a great job."
Davis has her eye on the prize and is not deviating from the goals her team has made for their season. She understands that through adversity comes greatness, and she is ready to show what her team is made of. Although from the outside looking in the team seems too young, Davis knows her team has what it takes to bring back pride back to Lawrence.
"We just have to play our game and not let what other people say affect us. We are a great team that has so much potential and experience," Davis said. "I could not think of a better place to play basketball and my experience thus far playing at KU has been amazing. I have met a lot of great people playing here and we owe our fans a successful season. I'm not stopping until we achieve it."