For a college student athlete, there is no season more important than your senior year. It’s the year when everything could soon be coming to an end: the long practices, the extra work on weekends, the countless hours in the library. For many, it is a bittersweet reality.
For Arizona State Sun Devil and Berkeley High graduate Elisha Davis, senior year is an opportunity to live out dreams she has worked for since she was a child. Through her hard work and dedication, Davis has become an honor roll student with WNBA potential. She enters this season with pro aspirations and graduation right around the corner.
Davis, who graduated from Berkeley High in 2012, was introduced to basketball at the age of 6 by her father, and has been in love with the game ever since.
“My first love was really football,” said the 21-year-old Oakland native. “My dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl. So he gave me a basketball and basically told me to stay off the football field.”
Davis started playing basketball at Berkeley Youth Alternatives for Coach Leroy Hurt, who coached the Bay Area Magic basketball team — now the California Ballaz — one of the state’s best youth clubs at that time. Hurt, who coached Davis from age 6 to 17, had the chance to watch her grow from a third-grader playing for fun to a young woman on a mission.
Hurt said Davis’ confidence and “no fear” mentality is what has made her one of college basketball’s best point guards.
“As a point guard your job is to create opportunities for your teammates,” said Hurt. “She makes plays on both ends of the court and that is what makes her an effective player. She has been aggressive since she first picked up a basketball, and that aggression has only gotten stronger over the years. ”
As the years went on, Davis’ passion for the game continued to develop. She became more focused and goal driven, which led her to become one of the most highly recruited female athletes in the Bay Area. Davis started at guard for three years while at BHS and her strength and quickness aided in her dominance of opponents. At 5 foot 3 and 140 pounds, she is considered an undersized guard but, like many have found, she does not play like one. Her high basketball IQ has allowed her to stay ahead of her opponents making her a floor general.
In 2012 she was named Division 1 Player of the Year by NorCalPreps.com, and received a grade of 86 from ESPN, ranking her as one of the best basketball players in the state.
During her senior season, she led the Berkeley High School Yellowjackets to their second straight state title game while averaging 13.1 points and four assists per game. It was after her senior year that Davis realized that the time and effort she had put into developing as a basketball player was starting to pay off.
“That senior year at Berkeley High really helped with my confidence. I got the chance to play against some of the best players in the country, and to receive an award like player of the year showed me that recruiters and critics were starting to see what I saw in myself all along.”
With that newfound confidence in herself and respect from her peers, Davis committed to Arizona State University and took her skills to Tempe. ASU was the first school to offer her a scholarship and she wanted to return that same loyalty. So she committed to the Sun Devils and enrolled the summer after graduating from Berkeley High.
“The staff at ASU were really consistent in their recruiting of me,” Davis said. “I felt not only needed but wanted, like Coach Joseph Anders really valued not just me as an athlete but as a person as well. That was big for me.”
Former Yellowjacket and Cal Golden Bear Brittany Boyd watched Davis grow as a person and player over the years as well. Boyd, who plays for the WNBA’s New York Liberty, has known Davis since they were kids. Boyd was also a member of the Bay Area Magic/California Ballaz and played with Davis — who goes by “Lili,” short for Elisha — while at BHS.
“I’ve known Lili for about 13 years,” said Boyd. “We played on the same AAU team and were teammates at Berkeley High. We had the luxury of growing through the game together.”
Boyd went on to credit Davis as not only talented, but someone who gives her all to the game. She mentioned Davis’ ability to work at the little things that make a player good, whether it be running longer or getting in an extra workout.
“What I admire most about Lili is her determination to be great,” Boyd said. “She has always had an uncommon work ethic, she consistently gives it her all.”
The work ethic Boyd is referring to is what has Davis not only making waves on the court, but in the classroom as well. Davis has a 3.8 cumulative GPA and is on course to finish her undergraduate degree this fall and enroll in a graduate program at ASU, where she plans to get her master’s in communication studies.
“I’ve always felt the need to give it my all with everything I’ve done,” Davis said. “I was always weary of being defined only as an athlete, so I made it a purpose to show others that I was also smart.”
As a reward for her achievements in the classroom, ASU has offered her funding to complete her master’s degree free of charge, even after her eligibility is up. Over the years, Davis has received academic honors like second team Pac-12 All-Academic, a team that is made up of the best student athletes in the Pac-12 conference, and the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar award in 2014 and 2015, given to the university’s most prestigious student-athletes. Davis, who is majoring in communication, plans to use what she’s learning in school to impact her community in a positive way.
“I can’t tell you exactly what I want to do with my life outside of basketball. I haven’t given that much thought,” said Davis. “I do know I want to give back, to help others the way so many have helped me.”
Davis says that, while grad school awaits, this season is still her main focus. It is her chance to continue to improve in all phases of the game and get closer to her goal of playing in the WNBA. With the season opener set for Sunday, Nov. 15, against the Kentucky Wildcats she plans on showing everyone just how much she has improved since last season.
“I put in a lot of work this offseason. I’ve never been this focused,” Davis said. “I want scouts, critics, fans all to see that i’ve progressed. I want to show that I can lead a team.”
You can catch Davis and the Sun Devils in action this Sunday against the Wildcats of Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. in Pac-12 Networks.
Lady Yellowjackets fall in final to Long Beach Poly, 46-28 (03.25.13)
BHS girls three-peat in NorCal hoops championship (03.18.13)
BHS women’s basketball team continues Cinderella story (03.12.13)
Brittany Boyd: A Berkeley role model makes waves at Cal (03.29.12)
Lady Jackets fall to Mater Dei in state final (03.26.12)
BHS girls basketball team to state championships (03.19.12)
Lady Jackets head to NorCcal championships (03.14.12)
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