Throughout the summer, NAU Athletics will take a look back and catch up with former Lumberjack women's basketball players in a Where Are They Now series.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Aubrey Davis personifies the cliché – good things come to those who work hard. During her women's basketball career at NAU, Davis started at the bottom and by the time she left, she made it to the top.
"Nothing ever fazed me because I always knew that basketball is what I wanted to do," Davis said. "The game is something that will never leave my side."
When Davis first arrived on the Northern Arizona University campus in 2009, only after her original plan of playing basketball at UC San Diego fell through, nothing was given to her. The Murrieta, Calif. product who was her high school's career blocks leader had to earn her spot on the Lumberjack squad as a walk-on. Even after a fellow walk-on candidate quit after the first week of training, a moment that left her "traumatized" as the only remaining walk-on, Davis worked her way to a spot on the roster.
Her first year did not go by without its share of growing pains though as she saw action in just 10 games, averaging just 0.7 points and 1.1 rebounds in just 3.8 minutes per game. Davis continued to work and in her second season, she saw her role grow slightly appearing in 21 games and even earning four starts. Her playing time remained minimal though as she played just south of seven minutes per contest.
But former NAU head coach Laurie Kelly saw enough in Davis to award her a partial scholarship entering Davis' junior campaign and that set her final two seasons in motion. Now on scholarship, Davis spent her summer leading into her junior season in Flagstaff to train and both her and the Lumberjacks reaped the benefits. During the 2011-12 season, Davis appeared in all 29 games and started a team-high 28 games. Davis took her increased role and ran with it as she ranked fourth on the team with 6.7 points and third on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting a team-best 51.9 percent from the field, the seventh-best season field goal percentage in school history at the time. Midway through the year, Davis received the best news of all though as Kelly told her she would be rewarded with a full scholarship as a senior.
"It meant a lot to me because it showed me that I earned the respect of my teammates and the coaching staff," Davis said. "(As a freshman), I felt everyone was selected for the team and I had to work for it. Looking back on it, I didn't feel I belonged. But as the season went on, the girls became family to me and it was a good experience."
Davis finished her career starting all 29 games during the 2012-13 season, averaging career-highs in points (7.8), rebounds (5.8), assists (1.4) and minutes (27.3) in stark contrast to three seasons prior. In four years, Davis had ascended from walk-on to one of the program's most effective post players finishing sixth in career field goal percentage (.475) and ninth in career blocks (70).
She would spend last year in Flagstaff as she completed her student teaching leading to her graduation in December with her degree in secondary education – mathematics. Following graduation, Davis worked as a substitute teacher in town and she landed a coaching job with Coconino High School's girls' basketball team as she took the first steps to fulfilling her lifelong goals.
"My dream has always been to be a high school math teacher and a basketball coach," Davis said. "Since I can't play basketball, I still want basketball to be in my life. (Coaching) high school was eye-opening, but I miss the college aspect. I helped out with the post players because they had a 6-2 freshman who is now a sophomore and I'd practice with her."
Davis' work with the local high school will prove to be valuable as she is set to join her alma mater's coaching staff beginning this fall as a graduate assistant. With a graduate assistant position in North Dakota in hand, Davis approached head coach Sue Darling for her advice and wound up leaving with an offer to join the Lumberjack staff instead, much to her delight.
"I'm stoked because I fell in love with Coach Darling and the whole staff during my senior year," Davis said. "They have good connections that will help me after my two years here and I have no doubt they will guide me in the right direction. I really like where the program is heading. I really believe they're going to be good this year. When Coach Darling asked me to her grad assistant, I didn't even hesitate on the opportunity."
Darling's first year at NAU and Davis' final year coincided and two years later, Darling knew she was an ideal fit on her staff.
"Aubrey is the epitome of a Lumberjack," Darling said. "Her playing career at NAU was defined by persistence, dedication, hard work, selflessness and loyalty. Aubrey is a champion in all she does. We are ecstatic to have her back working with our program as a part of our staff."
This upcoming season, Davis will also have another opportunity to mentor the team's two seniors Raven Anderson and Erikka Banks. While Davis' playing career was taking off, she served as a role model for both Anderson and Banks as the pair was maturing to the Division I game as underclassmen. Now with the senior duo poised to play a big role for the Lumberjacks in their final season, Davis is excited for the opportunity to work with them once again.
"Raven has always been a beast inside and I always hated guarding in her practice," Davis said. "Seeing her play now and the post moves she's developed, I'm so excited to watch her and Erikka both play their senior year and give it all they've got. I hope they realize that this is it so lay it all out."
"Aubrey Davis is a great person inside and out," Anderson said. "She worked hard all the time and she always stayed positive. I looked up to her and learned a lot from her. It's going to be great to have her back. Who wouldn't want to have someone like Aubrey Davis around them?
Given Davis' story, she is sure to drive this year's group of Lumberjacks in their bid to return to the top of the Big Sky Conference. After missing out on the conference tournament the last five seasons, like Davis, NAU could find themselves making the leap from the bottom to the top.
"I look at other programs and I look at the type of girls it takes for a program to be successful," Davis said. "I would rather have 10 girls who work hard over 10 superstars. I think the players that Coach Darling has are going to work hard for her and I look forward to setting an example through coaching."