The University of Toledo was ready to give Tia Davis one of the highest honors the former Rocket women’s basketball player could receive recently.
There was a small catch though.
Toledo athletic director Mike O’Brien talked to Colorado State assistant women’s basketball coach Dick Lien about it hoping he could help. The two old friends had previously coached together at Wisconsin-Green Bay and were chatting when CSU and Toledo played this season.
“… To make a long story short, the athletic director Mike O’Brien was talking to Dick and they began to talk about me,” recalled Davis, a former Kokomo Wildkat standout, who had coached with Lien at CSU when her playing days ended. “[O’Brien] asked if he knew any way to get in touch with me because they didn’t have my current contact info and I was going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.”
When Lien relayed that to Davis, it turned out to be news to her, welcome news at that. Davis, who played at Toledo from 1999-2003, will be at her old college stomping grounds this weekend as part of the new class of the University of Toledo Hall of Fame. There’s a dinner for the honorees today, then Saturday they’ll be introduced during both games of a Toledo women’s/men’s doubleheader.
“It’s really a great honor and I’m humbled by it all,” Davis said. “It just means so much that former alums, players, coaches, they thought highly of me and my impact I made on and off the court to nominate me to be included.
“It’s a really huge honor and I’m really thankful and blessed by it all.”
Davis was a standout at UT, scoring 1,099 points and snagging first-team all-MAC honors as a senior.
“If she doesn’t tear her ACL in her senior year with a month to go in the season, it was pretty much the consensus that she was going to be the Mid-American Conference player of the year,” former Kokomo coach Charlie Hall said.
Toledo had high hopes for Davis and she delivered. She started for three seasons and helped the Rockets reach the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore.
“I’ll never forget this: We’re in the athletic office when she calls the Toledo coach and verbals she’s going to come to Toledo,” Hall said. “I’m on the other side of the room and I hear the Toledo coach scream or yell. That’s how excited he was.”
Her playing career offered plenty of highlights on the court, and a lasting impact off it. Davis talked about her favorite memories.
“Making it to the NCAA Tournament,” was the first thing Davis listed. A memorable non-conference game was second: “Beating Duke at our place when Duke was ranked fifth in the country. I was leading scorer in that game, then we were in the Top 25 after we beat Duke at our place. Oh, going to the NCAA Tournament, we went out East and as a team we went to New York City and we played Southwest Missouri State … that’s when they had Jackie Stiles. We played them in the first game of the tournament and we got beat.
“As for being off the court, it’s the relationships you build in your life. I have a best friend that she’ll be my best friend for life and she was my teammate [Shekinah Brazzle-Green]. Still touching base and talking to your coaches and the friends you make during college [is important]. I’m big on relationships and those are lasting relationships that I plan to have forever.”
After graduating, Davis played for a year in Europe, playing for part of the year in Switzerland and part in Luxembourg. She coached for two seasons at Nebraska as a graduate assistant while she got her master’s degree, then decided she wanted to pursue coaching. She was an assistant at Colorado State for a season, and then coached a high school team in Loveland, Col.
But it’s hard to find the right coaching job because the openings are only at certain times in the year.
“I decided, hey, I have these degrees, I have to use them. I can’t continue to wait on an opening coming up,” Davis said. She took a position as an assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Lafayette, Col., where she works now. “I’m still involved in basketball. There’s a group of parents, they want me to coach a high school girls team in AAU club ball. I still work kids out on my own — personal development lessons.
“I still have a head and foot in coaching. I still love basketball.”
She’s still involved with CSU as well. The school recently asked her to help with the new mentoring program for CSU’s African-American athletes. She’s one of two mentors who work with three students, serving as an advisor, and also someone to listen to as the students adjust to college life.
That she’s so interested and involved comes as no surprise to Hall.
“It was really fun to see Tia grow as a person and become a very tough competitor in a very tough league,” he said. “She just took off in college.
“She’s such a sweet and nice kid, I think as she got older she learned how to get that killer instinct, and still be a nice kid at the same time. That’s hard to do. She stayed a nice, sweet kid, and became a very good competitor.
“I couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s one of my favorites.”