March 22, 2024 

Mississippi’s Marquesha Davis finds belief, breeds success

Marquesha Davis, propelled by Coach Yo's belief, rises from underestimation to become a star standout at the University of Mississippi

When Marquesha Davis came to Mississippi, most people — coaches, scouts, and even she herself — didn’t believe in her. That all changed when Coach Yo came knocking. Or, perhaps more accurately, Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, known as Coach Yo, came her way, motivated by former Mississippi guard Destiny Salary.

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“Marquesha went into the portal. We had Destiny Salary on the team, who is from Arkansas … Dez came up to me and said, Coach, [Mar]Que[sha] is in the portal, we need her,” Yo recalled after Mississippi’s SEC Tournament loss. “A lot of people told me not to take her, she doesn’t play a lot, that kind of stuff.”

But Coach Yo isn’t afraid of the uncertainty — she joked to media she doesn’t always look like the biggest winner either, so she was willing to take a chance. Now she says it’s one of her best decisions since coming to Oxford, Miss.

“When I first came here, [Coach Yo] believed in me more than I believed in myself,” Davis told The Next. “She tells me don’t let my dreams scare me. So a lot of times she’s really made me confident and the player that I am.”

A year of confidence and growth

Over the season, Davis has gone from key role player to budding star. She’s taken her game to a new level, leading the team with 14.6 ppg and earning an All-SEC First Team nod.

The fifth-year hails from McGehee, Ark. — a small town not far off from the Mississippi border. She spent her first three years of college at the University of Arkansas until transferring across state lines in 2022. Davis is quiet, family-oriented, and a “silent assassin,” according to Coach Yo. Outside of basketball and family, Davis says she loves to sleep and go out to eat by herself.

During the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals, Davis put on the performance of her career, driving through the lane and blowing past Florida for a career-high 33 points. Davis is the first Mississippi player since 2019 to score 30 points in a game.

After the win, the Mississippi locker room was abuzz with cheers and chants for Davis, accompanied by her teammates’ wide smiles when asked about their quiet star. Senior leader Madison Scott told The Next Davis is “a gift from God.”

Davis chalks up her career-high to playing “intentionally,” a key point of focus for her this season. Davis says when she’s intentional about getting to the basket, no one can stop her explosive drive. 

Standing at six feet tall, Davis is long and athletic, with the signature defensive spirit of a Mississippi player. And her vertical is magic. She appears to float to the basket on driving layups — earning her the nickname “Air-Quesha.” This season she’s proud of her midrange development, which has helped her scoring average jump by over four points.

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Something to prove

And although Davis’ self-belief has dramatically transformed, the SEC overlooked her this fall. She says being absent from both the coaches and media preseason polls motivated her to play as well as she did this season and grab the All-SEC First Team title.

“[Davis] got something to prove. She got her flowers a little bit, but she’s still got something to prove,” teammate KK Deans told The Next. “She a pro, and she about to thrive at this next level and she’s just showing the whole world that. We know what she can do, but when she just showing y’all what she’s able to do.”

Davis maneuvers three LSU defenders in March 9, 2024 battle at Bon Secours Arena during the Women’s Basketball SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Arena in Greenville, SC. (Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/SEC)

With Mississippi a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Davis has plenty more basketball to play, but the goalpost is even further. When asked if she’s plans to declare for the WNBA draft, Davis responded with her signature Southern politeness and brevity. 

“Yes, ma’am.”

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With upside on her defense and athleticism and downside on her shooting from three and the stripe, Davis might hear her name in the second or third round of the draft. Coach Yo hopes she’ll join a team where she can be a sponge and grow her independence.

“I think the best-case scenario for Que would be to be with an organization that has experience so she can be a sponge and learn. No one’s bringing her in to save the day. I tell my players that all the time,” Yo said. “College sometimes makes you come very dependent… I always tell Que, It’s not going to be like this once the last buzzer sounds. You’re not going to have someone to make sure your socks are there.”

After recently crossing the 1,000 career point mark, Davis and her team are looking to add a few more. Mississippi, which dominates on defense but often finds itself stagnant on offense and moving the ball, will need Davis’ continued belief to achieve their expectations.

“That’s just the expectation now. I feel like we’re a much better team than last year, so I feel like we can go further.”

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Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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