In the first quarter of Temple’s loss to Penn on Jan. 21, freshman forward Mia Davis grabbed one of her eight rebounds. But instead of throwing an outlet pass to a guard, this time she took the ball the length of the court.
After crossing the half-court line, Davis set up the Owls’ offense. Because Davis took the ball directly up the floor, Penn scrambled to get back on defense, which led to mismatches in the Owls’ favor.
One of those mismatches had sophomore forward Shantay Taylor matched up on a guard. Davis saw the mismatch and passed the ball to Taylor, who scored in the post.
“Coach [Tonya] Cardoza has a lot of confidence in me, letting me bring the ball up after a rebound,” Davis said. “As a team, we want to get out and run, and I’m just trying to help us play the way we’re coached to be playing.”
Davis’ ability to bring the ball up the court despite typically playing with three or four guards beside her is just one facet of her versatility. Davis has become one of the Owls’ leading 3-point shooters, spreading the floor as the team’s starting center.
Before she shot 3-for-3 from 3-point range against the University of South Carolina on Dec. 21, Davis had taken just 10 3-pointers during the first 11 games of the season. She has averaged 2.1 3-point attempts in the past 10 games.
Davis is shooting 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, which is good for second on the team only behind graduate guard Mykia Jones.
“When we’re hitting our shots, it opens up the floor for all of us,” senior guard Tanaya Atkinson said. “Especially when Mia can pull out one of the bigs, our offense runs a lot smoother.”
Davis’ efficiency from behind the arc makes her one of the highest-rated players for Temple from an analytical standpoint.
Davis is second on the team in efficiency, according to sports analytics site National Statistic. She is also second with a 46.1 effective field-goal percentage, a statistic that takes into account that a 3-point basket is worth more than a 2-pointer and therefore should count more in a player’s shooting evaluation. Her true shooting percentage — which accounts for field goals, 3-pointers and free throws together — is third on the team at 51.6 percent.
Davis only trails Atkinson in efficiency and effective field-goal percentage. The senior guard is currently in the top 35 of qualified Division I players in efficiency.
“It obviously feels really good being only behind Tanaya because of how important [she is] and well she has played this season,” Davis said. “And being just a freshman, I’m hoping it’s just the start and I’ll keep improving.”
Stretching the floor and being a versatile forward hasn’t always been Davis’ game. During her high school career at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Davis was predominantly a post player because she was just “bigger than everybody,” she told The Temple News in November.
But since coming to Temple, the college game has forced Davis to adapt her style of play and grow into the stretch forward she has become in her freshman campaign.
“I knew coming in that posting up as my main source of offense wouldn’t work because everyone at this level is as big as me,” Davis said. “So the transition into becoming more of an outside player has been going well, working on my dribble moves and my shot.”
Ever since the preseason European tour, Cardoza has raved about Davis’ potential. She averaged a double-double during the Owls’ three games in Rome and Paris in August with 15 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
Davis barely worked on her ball-handling ability and outside shot in high school, she said, but her growth in those areas has cemented her place in the Owls’ lineup.
She has started all 22 games and is Temple’s second-leading scorer and rebounder behind Atkinson.
“She’s come a long way with her shot so far,” Cardoza said. “She has shown she has the confidence in letting it fly. This summer is gonna be important for her to get in the gym and keep working on it because when the defense starts noticing she is hitting her threes, it’s gonna make her whole game easier.”