Thirteen-year-old Nikki Davis’ earliest memories of playing basketball began are as a two-year-old at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre basketball courts with her father Matt Davis.
An avid basketball player who had competed in numerous All Native basketball tournaments, Davis would bring his infant daughter to the gym where she would watch him shoot. As she was too small to get the ball to the basket herself, he would lift her up so that she could get the ball to the basket.
“I would just bring her down to the gym, and she would watch me play or the two of us would do it together,” Matt Davis said.
As Nikki got older, she developed more of a passion for the game, and her time on the court started to become more serious. Instead of lifting her daughter up to the rim, Matt Davis started to teach her some of the more fundamental aspects of the game that would help her be a more effective player.
“He showed me some post-up moves, how to control the ball, and he helped me with my form,” Nikki Davis said. “He told me to keep my elbow in and to flick my wrist on my release when I shoot.”
Davis started to play organized basketball in grade three when she joined the Prince Rupert Minor Basketball League, and her passion for the game has been growing ever since. Her grandfather, Lawrence Brown, another basketball junkie in the family who played in the All-Native tournament over 30 years ago, said when Nikki is not in school, she can usually be found in the gym either playing or working on an aspect of her game with friends.
“She just loves the game,” he said.
Davis’ dedication to the sport has started to pay off even though she is still young. At the 2017 Northwest Zone Championships, the Prince Rupert middle school team won the Grade 8 Zone championship, with Davis winning the most valuable player award for the tournament. She also competed in the Jr. All-Native tournament that was held in Kelowna, played for Prince Rupert’s under-17 thunder team and Hazelton’s under-13 Spartan team winning two different player of the game award and being placed on the all-star team in the under-13 division.
Perhaps the highlight of this season was being selected to attend the B.C. Aboriginal Regional Basketball Camp and the Invitational B.C.Aboriginal Provincial Basketball Camp, both of which are selection camps for players trying out for the B.C. North America Indigenous Games basketball representatives. Davis was successful in making the under-14 team despite being one of the teams youngest athletes, and made the trip to Toronto to compete against some of the best indigenous teams in the province.
Davis said playing for the B.C. team was a learning experience, as she had to get used to the team’s different organization and positional play.
“I was so nervous, but it was fun,” she said. “We only had a few practices to learn the positions so it became complicated.”
Davis struggled to get playing time early in the tournament as she was relatively inexperienced, but as the team progressed through the tournament, she began to see more time on the court due to her abilities on defense. The under-14 team eventually made it to the tournament’s gold medal game where they played against team Wisconsin. During the game, Davis was tasked with shutting down Wisconsin’s best three point shooter.
“I only got a few baskets, but I was able to stop her from scoring as well,” Davis said.
Team B.C. eventually lost the game 31-54, but Davis is proud of her silver medal, keeping it in her bedroom.
In the future, Davis says she wants to continue playing basketball as long as she can, maybe coaching in the future because she says it will be fun to “help other people improve.” Her father said he is trying to encourage her to push because if she improves, the game will open doors for her that might not be available otherwise.
“I tell her she has opportunities to succeed if she keeps working hard,” he said. “She is very talented and will always have opportunities.”