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2021 WNBA Draft Watch: Rennia Davis continues to grow for Lady Vols

Tennessee Lady Vols forward Rennia Davis has physical tools perfectly suited for today’s WNBA. If the league’s coaches are as high on Davis’ development as head coach Kellie Harper is, she’ll be one of the first players drafted in 2021.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 28 Women’s Ole Miss at Tennessee
Rennia Davis may be a 6-foot-2 forward, but her movement is as fluid as a point guard’s.
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers (12-5, 6-3 SEC) may not be the powerhouse they once were, but there’s still plenty of talent flowing through the storied program, and the team will soon be sending its best player off to the WNBA Draft.

Forward Rennia Davis, who has wowed the Lady Vols faithful throughout her career with seemingly effortless athleticism on both ends of the court, entered her senior season as a player whose name was tossed around in WNBA Draft conversations. As with any NCAA season, players’ draft stocks have risen and fallen here and there, but there hasn’t been much to change the notion that Davis will likely be the Lady Vols’ highest-drafted player since Shekinna Stricklen went No. 2 overall in 2012.

Tennessee faithful see Davis as the team’s leading rebounder and most dynamic player — WNBA scouts could see her as even more.

Honors and statistics

Davis came to Tennessee with a fair amount of hype surrounding her, ranked as 2017’s No. 12 overall recruit by ESPN HoopGurlz and named a McDonald’s All-American.

Four years later, Davis’ collegiate career has largely lived up to expectations. While the Tennessee program has yet to reach the heights it once held under Pat Summitt, Davis has earned plenty of individual accolades while playing there, starting with an SEC All-Freshman Team nod in 2018 and working her way up from there. She was named to the All-SEC Second Team in 2019 and to the First Team in 2020, receiving several SEC Player of the Week honors along the way.

Entering her senior season, Davis was named to the preseason All-SEC Team by conference coaches, and she is currently under consideration for the Cheryl Miller Award, given to the nation’s top small forward. Davis is also on midseason watch lists for the Wooden Award and the Wade and Naismith Trophies, each given to the women’s Player of the Year.

How she helps the Lady Vols

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 SEC Women’s Tournament - Tennessee vs Missouri
Davis’ impressive frame and versatility on defense will likely be her calling card early in her WNBA career.
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Standing 6’2” with the mobility typical of players several inches shorter, Davis possesses a unique physical skill set that allows her to defend just about anywhere on the court. This will surely appeal to WNBA coaches and GMs as the league leans further and further into “small ball” lineups. Davis has the frame and the athleticism to hang with both perimeter and frontcourt players, while her fluidity of movement makes her a potential irritant in passing lanes.

That’s not to say, of course, that Davis is a one-dimensional player. She’s averaged double-figure scoring in each of her four NCAA seasons — topping out at 18 points per game as a junior. She has ranked in the 85th percentile or better in total rebounding percentage in three of four seasons, according to Her Hoop Stats.

Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper, however, still wants more out of Davis — not just for the Lady Vols, but for her star wing’s WNBA chances.

“She can shoot the basketball. She’s physical. She’s strong. She can rebound,” Harper told Knox News shortly after being hired in 2019. “But maybe polishing up every aspect of her game, growing that [is her next step]. She wants to be a pro, and we want to help her get there.”

Those little aspects of Davis’ game have indeed been polished during Harper’s tenure. The Lady Vols have been relying on Davis less, but she’s been more efficient with the basketball, shooting a career-high 56.7 percent from 2-point range. Davis’ floor game has also improved significantly: her current assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.47 is a far cry from her underclassman seasons, when she totaled just 101 assists to 152 turnovers (a ratio of 0.66).

Such development has been one of Harper’s main goals, who praised Davis’ knack for adding new things to her game prior to the 2020-21 season. Davis has been able to make it rain with effortless-looking, one-legged fadeaway jumpers since her arrival at Knoxville, but the trajectory of the rest of her game will be the ultimate decider for GMs weighing WNBA readiness against long-term potential in the upcoming draft. Her development, however, should make a strong impression on scouts.

Watch her play

With SEC play winding down, Davis and the Lady Vols will need to be at their best — particularly against the No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks, who visit Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 18. Tennessee will then travel to play the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs on Jan. 21.

Both games will be featured on the SEC Network.

All statistics and team record for the 2020-21 season are current through Feb. 17, 2021.