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LONG BEACH STATE NOTEBOOK / JASON REID : Freshman Davis Has Talent Beyond Her Years

Sarah Davis thought she knew the routine.

As a freshman guard for the Long Beach State women’s basketball team, Davis figured the closest she would get to game action would be congratulating her teammates as they returned to the bench.

After all, she thought, that’s the role of most freshmen, right?

Yes, but that’s not the role 49er Coach Glenn McDonald envisioned for Davis. However, only six games into her collegiate career, Davis, a former Tustin High standout, is exceeding even her coach’s high expectations.

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“Sarah is just playing great,” McDonald said recently. “I knew early on Sarah was going to contribute for us. She brings a lot of defensive intensity and energy into the game.”

Davis, 5 feet 6, is averaging 4.6 points for the 49ers (2-5), who play at Nevada Las Vegas at 7:30 tonight. She is sixth on the team in scoring and is one of Long Beach’s best one-on-one defenders. Moreover, Davis has committed only eight turnovers while averaging 21.8 minutes and learning to play point guard--the game’s most difficult position.

She was a reserve in the 49ers’ first four games and has started the last three because of a left knee injury suffered by senior guard and captain Michelle Miller. In her first start, a 79-72 loss at Colorado State on Dec. 21, Davis scored nine points with only one turnover in 31 minutes.

All this after thinking she probably wouldn’t play 31 minutes this season .

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“Coach (McDonald) told me he’s getting a lot out of me he didn’t expect,” Davis said. “My role is to play defense, and my defense is what is making me stand out.”

Davis’ early success has prompted her to re-evaluate her career goals.

“I kind of feel like I’m on the same level as (junior point guard) Akia (Hardy) even though she has a lot more experience than me,” Davis said. “I plan on being an All-American by my junior year.”

Yet Davis’ ascent hasn’t come without some growing pains.

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“I’m the youngest one out there,” said Davis, 18, “and I’m still just getting used to playing. It was kind of hard at first but it’s getting better.”

Her future is at point guard and McDonald is giving her some experience running the offense this season. Davis is learning she still has a lot to learn.

“I’m still getting used to running the offense, but it’s an adjustment that I need,” Davis said. “It scares me a lot sometimes because I have a lot of people telling me different things.

“They say, ‘You need to get the ball to this side of the floor, you need to get the ball to the other side of the floor.’ Sometimes they sound a little mean and negative, but I know they don’t mean it that way. They’re just trying to help me.”

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Davis wasn’t highly recruited after her senior season at Tustin. She was a four-year starter for the Tillers and averaged 12 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and six assists in her career. However, Long Beach and Cal State Northridge were the only schools that showed an interest.

“I was just one of those players who was overlooked,” Davis said.

Not anymore.

Although Davis is an integral member of the 49ers this season, McDonald hopes--expects--Davis to become a team leader in seasons to come. Davis wants the same.

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“I have to work on having a stronger voice, not being afraid of what I say to people,” she said. “I need to take charge more with my teammates and be more aggressive. That will make me a better player.”

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Tough times ahead? The women’s basketball team has had two consecutive losing seasons, and Davis thinks things will get worse before getting better.

“I think it’ll be a rough season,” Davis said. “I don’t think we know how to win yet.”

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Timely progress: Men’s basketball Coach Seth Greenberg is pleased with his team, which played well in Michigan State’s Spartan Classic on Dec. 29-30 at East Lansing, Mich.

Long Beach stayed close to No. 15 Michigan State before losing, 70-60, in the championship game Dec. 30. Greenberg says the 49ers (4-2) will build on that performance as they begin Big West Conference play 7:30 p.m. Thursday against New Mexico State at The Pyramid.

“We’re improving,” Greenberg said. “We still have to get better offensively, but we’re playing great defensively.”

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The return of guard James Cotton would undoubtedly help.

Cotton, the Big West Conference freshman of the year last season, has been out since suffering a severe left ankle sprain in the 49ers’ final preseason game against the Mexican national team Nov. 18.

Cotton, 6 feet 6 and 205 pounds, said two weeks ago his rehabilitation was going well and he expected to play against the Aggies. Greenberg said Cotton would decide about his status for the New Mexico State game after meeting with doctors today.


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