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Stacy Davis - Pepperdine Magazine

Leading Man

Stacy Davis exercises his natural flair for leadership on and off the court.

Stacy Davis could easily rest on his impressive achievements. With 1,307 points scored, Davis is on track to become Pepperdine University’s all-time leading basketball scorer. He is among the top four rebounders in program history, and is a two-time All-West Coast Conference (WCC) first team selection. But Davis, 20, is restless. The 6’6”, 235-pound Seaver College senior is focused on how the team can win the WCC title and the NCAA tournament before he graduates in May 2016.

Still smarting from a painful loss in the WCC semifinals against Gonzaga last March, Davis blames himself, recalling how Pepperdine missed two free throws and, as the ball bounced off the rim and headed toward him, he was unable to box out his competitor, tipping the ball and pushing it out of bounds.

“I’ll never forget that moment until we beat them,” Davis says. “It makes me want to work harder so that we don’t have to be in a position to need a rebound, to have to push the envelope. I want us to have the lead instead of fighting for it.”

That drive and determination is recognized, admired, and sought after by his coaches, teammates, and competition, and has made Davis a leader, says Pepperdine men’s basketball head coach Marty Wilson (’89).

“Stacy is our leading rebounder. We challenge him to score for us, to be unselfish when other teams are double-teaming and trapping him, and to defend, too. We throw a lot on his plate,” Wilson says. “Other teams know that he’s our go-to guy, so their mindset is to take things away or make it tough for him.”

Davis puts in time preparing and researching how to play at the next level. “He thinks about what he can do better,” Wilson explains. “He genuinely cares about everyone, and wants to help.”

For Davis developing mental and physical strength is what it takes to be successful on the court and in life. Last summer he began incorporating yoga into his daily conditioning, improving his game by allowing him to move more easily through certain plays.

“It all comes back to stretching. The more you open your body, the more you can do,” Davis explains. “It has paid dividends for me and now other players on the team are picking it up.”

Teammate Atif Russell, one of Davis’ closest friends and roommate since freshman year, describes Davis as devoted to basketball and friends. “He puts in a lot of work and dominates the court because of his sheer size and will, and his deep voice,” Russell says. “He’s a good guy to talk to, and he’s always got my back.”

Wilson will continue challenging his star player and team captain, and views Davis as a potential recipient of the WCC Player of the Year designation. “Stacy commands that much respect, and the crazy thing is that he doesn’t know how good he is or how good he can be,” Wilson remarks.

Davis’ leadership was recognized by the NCAA when officials chose him, from a nomination submitted by Pepperdine athletic academic advisor Lauren Reid, to attend its nationwide Student-Athlete Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, in April. Davis learned leadership tools for handling challenges, and interacting with teammates and coaches. “That conference changed my life in terms of what my purpose is,” Davis explains. “Growing up I never saw myself as a leader. It means the world to know that people see that in me.”

Davis spent three weeks playing basketball in China this summer. He was invited to participate in Athletes in Action, a faith- based group that sponsors athletic/mission trips in which U.S. college athletes play host country teams. It was his first time out of the United States.

Born in San Diego, Davis was 10 when his family moved to Arizona. His full name is Stacy Wright Davis IV, after his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. “My father said I have to name my first son Stacy or he will haunt me in my sleep,” Davis jokes. “There’s a certain heritage that comes with being the fourth and I’m proud of it, try to do right by it, and bring honor to my family.”

His role models are his parents. When Davis was in high school, his mother, Felicia, suffered a debilitating stroke that required her to relearn to talk, walk and write, and made his father the primary caretaker of Davis and his two sisters. Fully recovered, Davis’ mother now runs a leadership development organization that empowers women.

“I’m so blessed that my mom is here today. She taught me perseverance,” Davis says. “My dad was always there for us. I look up to him and respect and admire how he interacts with people.”

Football was Davis’ first love but he was big for his age and was told to play in an older division. “My mother didn’t approve of that,” Davis says. Overweight as a child, Davis had difficulty keeping up with peers in physical activities. He discovered basketball while visiting an uncle who had a hoop. “Basketball helped me get healthy,” Davis recalls.

Davis chose Pepperdine because of the close bond among players and coaches. He credits coaches with influencing him to be a good athlete and a good person, and praises his team. “My teammates are the ones out there creating the opportunities for me, passing me the ball, guarding the other guys,” Davis says. “We’re tight-knit and listen to each other.”

Davis is majoring in organizational communication with a minor in marketing and hopes to remain in basketball as a player and then possibly as a sports marketer and commentator.

“I think I’m so passionate about basketball because I see what it can do for me, where it can take me,” Davis says. “I want to let others know that if you work hard in whatever you’re passionate about, it can take you to so many places and change your life.”

Watch Stacy Davis in action during the 2014-2015 season: