CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati junior guard Jeremiah Davenport never considered leaving the Bearcats, even in the midst of an incredibly stressful and difficult week this past spring.
Less than a month after UC's loss to Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game in March, Davenport's life changed.
Darren Davenport, Jeremiah's father, died hours after watching his son play pickup basketball in a gym on Easter night. Darren Davenport, a longtime Cincinnati-area coach and official, was 55 years old.
Davenport, a former Moeller High School standout, didn't want to leave his "dream school."
"I just stuck with it," Davenport said. "Being the background that I was brought up in with my family, I don't quit. Regardless. You know this is a school that I really like. I really love. So I just stuck with it."
Davenport's dedication to UC has impressed everyone around the program. Miller hasn't forgotten the impression that Davenport made as the first player to meet him on campus in mid-April.
Davenport's energy and passion for the Bearcats made a strong connection to the former University of North Carolina Greensboro coach who exhibited his enthusiasm for UC during his introductory press conference.
"Great coach," Davenport said. "This is a guy who cares about his teams, his players. That's what every player wants."
Miller watched game film of Davenport before moving to Cincinnati. Davenport's "fire to compete" came across the screen for Miller.
"And that was the first thing I said to him," Miller said. "And I tell you what. It's beyond real. It's more powerful in person. When he gets on the floor, he works and competes with a ferocity that's real. It's genuine. It's every single day. At least it's been to this point. And that's something I can really relate to. It's something I value."
Davenport averaged 11.7 points, five rebounds and nearly two assists last season. He started 14 games and was named to the AAC All-Tournament team.
Moeller coach Carl Kremer said Davenport didn't mention a negative word about his UC teammates who considered, or decided, to enter the NCAA transfer portal.
Three months later, Davenport has been thrilled with the direction of the UC program and the new coaching staff.
"Jeremiah is such an enthusiastic gung-ho kid," Kremer said. "I think the way he stood by the University of Cincinnati has really endeared a ton of people to him."
Davenport's magnetic personality was on display at Moeller earlier this summer when he helped with a youth basketball camp.
"He was incredible," Kremer said. "We had 200 kids there, and he brought a couple of teammates with him and they did a dunk contest. They played three of our seniors in a three-on-three game. He was the showman."
Davenport enjoyed connecting with the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders while giving back to a school that meant so much to him on and off the court.
"Moeller has done a lot for me," Davenport said. "It's the only high school I've been to. You know my brothers went there, so it was always like a family thing going on there since the early 2000s. So the transition from Moeller to prep school (Hargrave Military Academy) to college, Moeller prepared me academically, as a man – just all-around. It gave me a chance to be who I am now."
Miller said it's incumbent upon the Bearcats this season to capture the joy that Davenport embodies every time he competes in workouts, practices or games at UC.
"I've said this to everybody and I will say it again, 'When you watch Jeremiah Davenport play, he is playing for something bigger than the average player because he is playing for the community that he grew up in,'" Miller said. "And I think that's something that we have to figure how to tap into there. But it's something that I'm excited to be around and coach."
Davenport said he's been in the gym working constantly on his game and improving his strength and conditioning this offseason. He can't wait for this upcoming season.
"It's very big for me and my teammates and the coaching staff," Davenport said. "Everybody. The whole program. I feel like we are going to do something big."