February 2022 ~
Family, friends, community, tradition, travel … and a lot of basketball in Portland and around the world.
That’s been the life of Brittney Davis (Jefferson, 2004), former guard, graduate, and 2016 PIL Hall of Fame inductee.
Basketball was her thing from an early age, and it wound up taking her to many different places. It gave her wonderful friends and great and not-so-great experiences, the latter including injuries and some discord in college programs.
Today, she can reflect on all of the above and report that “I feel good.” She lives in Portland, not far from where she grew up, and works as a supervisor at the Columbia Sportswear distribution center in North Portland.
She still loves basketball.
“I watch college men and women, the WNBA and NBA – I watch it all. That love doesn’t go away,” she says.
In her day, she was something special on the court, just like many of the athletes she now watches.
How about four all-PIL first team selections special? And three times the PIL Player of the Year special? And that’s just part of it.
Davis was introduced to sports and basketball at a very young age. Her father, Willie Davis, was a Jefferson star, especially in baseball, and was inducted into the PIL Hall of Fame in 2018. Her mom’s side of the family played sports, too, and Brittney includes uncles and a grandfather among those who “had an impact on the player I became.”
“My dad had a great impact, and my mom (Cherie Davis) put me in the right positions with the right people to be successful,” she says.
Brittney was born in Portland and attended Beaumont Middle School and Boise-Eliot Elementary School. She was bound for Jefferson all along.
“I just wanted to go to a place that had great traditions, somewhere I could grow and win,” she says.
Jefferson was that place.
“We had great teams (80-16 overall) and made a lot of noise in the PIL,” she says of her four Jefferson years under coach Milt Adams.
She helped the Democrats win a PIL co-title as a junior and get to the state tournament as a senior, which was her third year in a row on the all-state first team.
She left Jefferson as winner of the school’s prestigious Hopkin Jenkins Award as best athlete – an honor her father also had claimed.
“That was a humbling moment,” she says, “to know you are in a class with a lot of people who dominated at their sports.”
Davis played in the Adidas All-American game and was a McDonald’s All-America nominee.
She also was a National Honor Society member with good grades.
“I enjoyed Jefferson a lot, the community support. The community around Jefferson is my home,” she says.
She was the go-to player for the Demos, and “I didn’t mind it, because I liked the pressure.”
The 5-7 Davis also grew up playing on AAU travel teams and winning some championships.
With that combination, colleges were calling before she even got to Jefferson.
“It was quite hectic,” she says of all the letters that came “left and right, non-stop.”
She had to narrow her potential choices quite a bit, and by her senior year she had her front-runners, led by Minnesota, UNLV, Cal and Gonzaga.
Oregon and Oregon State weren’t on that list.
“I wanted to go far and experience being on my own,” she says.
Only a few schools felt like a home away from home, though, and Minnesota won out. The Gophers were in the Final Four in 2004 as Davis was closing out her Jefferson career.
Minneapolis wasn’t to be home for very long, however. She played two seasons and on two NCAA Tournament teams that were a combined 45-18, but there was some turmoil and it became time to move on.
“I had a great experience as far as teammates and the fan atmosphere,” she says, “but a lot of other things convinced me to leave. So it was good and bad.”
She made friends at Minnesota that are still in her life.
“The chemistry and camaraderie, we were all really close,” she says. “My teammates were really supportive and there for me when I had mono and had times when I struggled. It was tough to leave, and it wasn’t done lightly. But at the end of the day, I had to do what was best for me.”
She decided to transfer to Oregon State.
“I didn’t want to go home,” but family friend and women’s basketball coach Velaida Harris suggested she talk to OSU.
In Corvallis, she played for LaVonda Wagner, who would be fired a few years later, in 2010, amid some tumult.
“I had great teammates at Oregon State as well,” Davis says.
Wagner was tough, and while Davis experienced that she also had things she liked about the coach.
“I loved her competitiveness and passion for basketball, and she knew the Xs and Ox through and through,” Davis says. “Whatever she said she was going to do for me, she did. I knew she cared and we wanted the same end goal.”
Davis had that competitiveness and passion, too. She says what made her successful was “my heart. I’m driven by challenges, always wanted to be better, to be the best and make my teammates better.”
At Oregon State, she sacrificed a lot and showed the will to win.
She also picked up a degree in communications, at the time wanting to eventually be a coach or analyst. One of her favorite memories is working with broadcaster Mike Parker calling Corvallis Knights summer-league baseball games.
“He was such a good guy,” Davis says.
But first, she wanted to be a professional basketball player.
It didn’t help that she had a herniated disc coming out of college – an injury she found out she had played with for an entire season.
“I was in so much pain all year,” she says. “I don’t know how it happened. All I know is one day I got a sharp pain in practice (at Oregon State), and it wouldn’t go away. My right leg went numb.
“I had to play through it. LaVonda didn’t want me out of the lineup. November through April I literally lived in the training room and did rehab three times a day, three to four hours. Lots of hot and ice baths. No cortisone.
“I would wake up crying in the mornings because I had to roll out of bed. I don’t know how I averaged so many points a game (a team-high 14.5), but I did.”
The OSU co-captain felt responsible for having her teammates’ backs and never asking them to do anything she wouldn’t do. A standout defender and combo guard, she became the team’s Player of the Year and led the Beavers to a 20-12 record and the WNIT in 2008-09.
Davis had back surgery after that senior season, and that kept her out of the WNBA loop, as she needed months to recover.
She wound up heading out of the country and playing a half-dozen years in Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg.
“All of it was great, though Slovakia was one of my worst experiences,” she says. “Every country was different, but it was great to experience different cultures, see the sights, the monuments, museums, castles, architecture, and get paid to play.”
Finally, as she was hitting age 28, “my body couldn’t take it anymore,” and she hung up the sneakers, happy for how much basketball she was able to coax out of it as a professional.
“It was just awesome,” she says.
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