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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  •  Balanced leadership driving Larks success

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  • HESSTON — Two college basketball players, alike yet very different, have teamed up to lead a dynamic backcourt that is spearheading the Hesston College women’s basketball 2012-13 campaign. Both two-year starters, they’ve complemented each other on the court while providing their team with a mix of leadership qualities. Destavia Davis of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Rachel Miller of Hutchinson, are the heart and soul of this year’s Larks. Both are quick, aggressive guards. Both can defend the perimeter. Both are good students. Both can score and distribute the ball, and both are counted on heavily by their coaches and teammates. Yet, there are distinct differences between the two — both in their roles on the court and their personalities off it. Miller, a resident assistant and nursing student, is the vocal leader and chief encourager, while Davis, an athletic training major, assumes a more soft-spoken, lead-by-example role. Both are flourishing as captains. Hesston coach Dan Harrison mentors a roster loaded with talented guards and has molded this year’s squad into an athletic team that needs to play fast to accentuate the team’s strengths. Having four guards on the floor at the same time is common. Harrison relies on his two sophomore point guards to do more than just distribute the ball. Through Hesston’s first 13 games, Davis and Miller rank first and third, respectively, in points per game. Davis also leads the team in assists and steals. “Having two true point guards on the roster is critical for the offense we run,” Harrison said. “We need ball handlers who can score, and Destavia and Rachel fit that bill. Their demeanor on the court is just as crucial to our success. Rachel is an organized communicator. She’s our calming presence. Destavia lets her speed and athleticism speak for itself. Both have proven to be welcoming and supportive of our younger players.” “We’re a guard-heavy, so we have to find ways to adjust and play to our strengths,” Miller said. “Speed is our ally, and as a team, we need to get out and run. Coach Harrison preaches aggressiveness on defense, which means we must trust each other and be ready to help our teammates on the defensive end. Through practice, we’ve learned each other’s tendencies and have adjusted to new roles. As a team we’re getting better every day.” “Destavia and Rachel are so different on the court,” said Larks freshman shooting guard Makayla Ladwig, Wichita, Kan. “Destavia inspires the team by her incredible display of mental toughness and confidence. When a play needs to be made, we look to her. Rachel is always focused and she knows exactly what coach Harrison wants us to do. Her confidence in each one of us is very affirming.” Miller views her on-court role as a mentor, a calming presence and vocal leader — all things learned through her basketball experience at nearby Haven High School as she observed older players performing those roles that she eventually grew into. “How I act on the court is a direct result of what was patterned to me,” Miller said. “As a younger player I had the benefit of playing with several older teammates who led in a positive way and were true team leaders. I like to think that my contributions to my team serve as a thank you to those who have helped me in the past.” Davis, too, has a strong basketball background on which to lean. A Texas Basketball magazine all-state player her senior year, Davis earned all-district Most Valuable Player honors and was named Woden High School’s co-offensive Player of the Year. That success has translated well to the college game. For a quiet young woman, traveling 600 miles from home was an adjustment. Davis, however, has made Hesston her second home and now finds herself in a leadership role on the team. “Attending Hesston was a big change for me,” Davis said. “I was quiet at first and didn’t know anyone when I got here. It took a little while to adjust, but my experience has been great. Hesston College backs up its talk about being a school where the faculty and staff care about each person. I love the atmosphere here.” Off the court, the personalities of Harrison’s sophomore point guards resemble what can be seen on the hardwood. Davis doesn’t say much, while Miller is quick to engage and encourage. Hours before a recent home game, Miller spotted a freshman who hadn’t followed through on the team’s tradition of dressing up on game days. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, the red-faced youngster was quickly given a good-natured reminder of team tradition. One thing the pair has in common, however, is a good sense of humor. Both have been known to pull a prank or two, as their teammates will attest.  “Destavia acts innocent, but she’s sneaky” Miller said, reminiscing of the day she found packing peanuts stuffed throughout her room. “It was hilarious to find out D was the culprit. Since then, I’ve kept a watchful eye on her.”  Miller, hardly off the hook when it comes to mischief, once swiped an unsuspecting teammate’s towel in the locker room, leaving her high and not-so-dry. The two share a fun-loving relationship. As freshmen, Miller would sometimes quip, “Stand up, Destavia,” while the diminutive Davis was already on her feet. Davis and Miller are also on the same page when it comes to achieving team goals. Finishing in the top half of a rigorous NJCAA, Region VI, is high on the priority list. Two gritty early-season wins over Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College have the Larks in third place among six teams, two of which are current top-5 national programs. At 2-2 in Region VI play, Hesston has done well, yet the team wants more. “We want to win 20 games,” Miller said. “The win over KCKCC gave us confidence we could come back on anyone. We play a tough schedule, but we have the athletes to compete. The unfolding season is like putting together a thousand-piece puzzle. The border is established, and now we’re working on filling in the rest.” As the season progresses, one thing is for sure — the Larks will go as far as its talented backcourt will take them. 
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