The Davenports' family room is full of laughter. It’s been seven months since all seven of them all shared the same space at the same time, and it’s not in their Columbia Township home. It’s a Zoom meeting room. In the COVID-19 era, it’ll suffice.
The subject is basketball. It’s hard to avoid the topic when all seven — father, mother and five children — play the game at a high level and six have played at the Division 1 level. The object, the basketball, was merely a tool for parents Sheila and Darren Davenport.
"Basketball was a means to get them to further their education; if they had fun with it, that was a plus for them," Sheila said.
From another screen, father Darren chimes in. He was a giant, 6-foot-5 point guard at Mt. Healthy before playing at Alcorn State.
“(The kids were) either going to get a scholarship, going to the military or getting a job — those were the only three choices they had in life," he said.
Four of their five children have gone the basketball scholarship route. Deborah is a talented junior at Woodward and will likely complete the set when she graduates.
Michael, the oldest, the family comedian, is Zooming from his couch in New York.
“All this makes me realize how old I am,” he said of his siblings' careers.
The 31-year-old won a state title in 2007 at Moeller and then played at St. Bonaventure. Most on the call agree he’s the best athlete in the family, although there is a debate if he’s the best dunker. (Both Jeremiah and Darren make convincing cases.)
But there is no disagreement about how important education is to the family. Rebounds and blocks are how they get there.
“It’s not just necessarily all about basketball,” Michael said. “Education. It’s about our overall well-being. Being the best you can, not just as a basketball player, but as an individual.”
Josh, 26, followed at Moe and then played at Winthrop. He’s the family dog on defense.
Naomi is 23 and just wrapped up a career at West Virginia after winning GGCL player of the year twice at Mount Notre Dame. She was first team All-Big 12 in 2019, and the oldest girl is a threat to score from anywhere on the court.
“We support each other,” Josh said. “I’d go to Naomi’s game after practice and her (athletic director) threatened to kick me out because I was the loudest one in the crowd. For me to be there as her older brother, I wanted her to know I was there.”
Their parents applaud their three oldest children's on-court accolades but cheer even more for their on-stage presence. All three earned their degrees while playing.
“I want to get my degree because they got (them),” Jeremiah said. “I know I’m going to get my degree. May have to do it outside of school though. My plan is to go to the NBA.”
Jeremiah is a breakout star for the Bearcats. He’s UC’s second leading scorer at 10 ppg as a sophomore. He also won a title at Moeller. Another debate ensues on the Zoom call.
“Best team in Moeller history!” Jeremiah said.
“Y’all were too small,” Josh responds.
If it were up to dad, this story probably wouldn’t be quite the same. He wanted Jeremiah to play wide receiver at Kentucky. Sheila, an excellent rebounder when she played at Morehead State, boxed out that notion.
“We thought (Jeremiah) would never play basketball, he was so chubby,” Naomi said.
Basketball wasn’t everyone’s first love. Michael wanted to play soccer. Naomi loved cheerleading. In addition to football, Jeremiah wanted to wrestle.
Josh and Jeremiah both lay claim as the best baller in the family. Mom overrules them.
“It’s me. You have to start somewhere,” Sheila said.
Deborah is the baby and has observed them all. Her stat line at Woodward is silly – 18 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks and 4 steals per game.
“I didn’t like Deborah. I was mad when Deborah was born,” Naomi said. “I just knew it was going be all about her. I was the little girl.”
Deborah can’t hide her competitiveness against her older sister.
“I do everything. I shoot threes now,” Deborah said. Naomi better get out of the way.
Maybe that dispute can be settled on the court the next time they all get together in person once again.