Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s basketball alum Olivia Davies

Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s basketball alum Olivia Davies

Olivia Davies drives against a defender. The guard finished her playing career this past season and will join the UH athletics department for her practicum. | Photo Credit: HSRN Staff

Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s basketball alum Olivia Davies

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 26, 2024

HONOLULU – Olivia Davies’ basketball life has been a chapter book, one wrought with adversity and triumph all the way through her final playing season with Hawai’i. 

After suffering multiple season-ending knee injuries, experiencing a pandemic at the same time as one of those injuries and the mental struggles that came with it and coming out on top as a multi-time Big West champion, the look back down the road for Davies is a long, bumpy ride. 

CHAPTER 1: The Ghost Recruit 

The former Rainbow Wahine standout spent her high school career like most elite youth basketball players, traveling with her father to participate in weekend tournaments. From Alaska, Davies was forced to look and play for different club teams, including a program that traveled to Oregon each weekend, to maximize her exposure to college coaches. 

“The reality [was] if you didn’t get out of the state, you weren’t going to be seen,” Davies said of the experience as a high school student-athlete in Alaska. “There weren’t really any coaches coming up there at the time.” 

As a star on and off the court, the young guard grinded to make sure her options for college were wide open. Sometimes leaving home for a month at a time, Davies had to keep up with schoolwork while handling the pressure of being a Division I basketball prospect. Despite that extreme effort by Davies, a brief move to the state of Washington proved to be more harmful than helpful for her exposure. 

Overall though, it may have ended up for the best. 

“When I moved to Washington to get more visibility, that fell through and deterred the other offers that I had just because I couldn’t travel for that year and that’s really big for college coaches to see consistency. They were like, where did she go?” the Rainbow Wahine alum chuckled. “I think everything worked out though the way I needed it to work out. Like, I’m super grateful that I ended up where I am and it was a beautiful experience – I spent five years here, I obviously liked it – but I knew coming into it, [Hawai’i] was going to be home.” 

Despite being a self-admitted “horrible recruit” during the time that the Rainbow Wahine pursued the then-high school senior, Hawai’i never gave up on trying to bring Davies into the program. Though she seemed quiet on the phone and somewhat reserved, the coaching staff knew the Alaskan sharpshooter would fit in nicely as soon as she arrived for a visit. 

“I had, like, piercings and rainbow Crocs, and [the coaches] were like oh yeah, she’s going to love it here. She’s going to be okay,” Davies recalled. 

Hawai’i’s program-wide mindset of competing for championships spoke volumes to Davies as well, who stated that as her number one desire in her college destination in an early conversation with Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman. The longtime Rainbow Wahine coach kept it honest with Davies, telling her that winning is what the program expected. While Beeman promised to also develop Davies as a young woman, she didn’t mince words about how the team’s culture came first. 

“From that conversation, I was like [Coach Beeman] is so much different from other coaches,” Davies said of her coach’s recruiting pitch. “That made the decision so much easier because I knew she [always was going to be straight up with us].” 

That might have been the last easy part of Davies’ career. 

Hawai’i guard Olivia Davies dribbles the ball at home against UC Santa Barbara. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

CHAPTER 2: The Injury Bug

While redshirting the 2019-20 season, Davies and the rest of the Rainbow Wahine were sent home during the Big West Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with an unbelievable scenario, Davies found herself spending a lot of time alone. 

“It was really hard; I think it was hard for a lot of people … I was coming off of my ACL injury, too, so for like three or four months, I couldn’t rehab my knee,” she said. 

With the next season having multiple games cancelled and confidence in her knee lacking, it was another trying season for the guard from Alaska. She eventually made her way back into the lineup, appearing in 15 games (13 starts) and playing nearly 26 minutes per night in the 2020-21 COVID-19-shortened season.  

Davies followed it up with a solid redshirt freshman campaign in 2021-22, appearing in 24 games (16 starts) for the Rainbow Wahine. Her sophomore season quickly ended after six games, suffering another season-ending injury that sapped as much of her confidence as it did physical ability. 

“The biggest [struggle] was that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to perform the way that I wanted to,” Davies said of the impact of her second major injury in college. “It was like I was playing at 60% of my true capabilities [when I came back] … [my knee] was like hey, I’m kind of over this playing thing.” 

Despite her bad luck, Davies tried to take the best from her adverse situation. With the help of multiple conversations with Beeman, the guard returned to the Rainbow Wahine for her junior season. 

“She always left it up to me,” Davies said. “I would come in some days and be like I don’t think I can do this … She never [told me to play or stop]. We had conversations about giving myself an opportunity.” 

 

CHAPTER 3: One Last Go and Gone… 

With comfort in her decision to give the season a go, the guard knew another grueling year was ahead of managing her knee and remaining confident in her body to hold up under her. It meant getting up earlier in the morning to do rehab, it meant staying hours after practice to receive treatment and it meant being ready to handle the ups and downs that the season typically presents. 

“It’s that ebb and flow of finding what brings you that drive and brings you that peace while acknowledging the fact – I DO feel this way and that’s okay,” said Davies of the mental battles she faced during her last season. 

The guard went as far as changing her style of play after losing her explosiveness on drives, learning to do more of her damage from behind the arc rather than breaking down defenders on the way to the rim. Even with the change for health and effectiveness, Davies knew the 2023-24 season would be her last despite having an additional year of eligibility. With that comfort and closure, she focused on making her final season memorable and enjoyable. The Rainbow Wahine won the regular season Big West crown and appeared in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament, bowing out with a first-round loss to California in which Davies enjoyed an efficient final game in college. 

“I think injuries are talked about, mental health is talked about, but living [with the injury] day-to-day is something that we don’t talk about,” Davies said. 

Hawai’i celebrates seniors Olivia Davies and Ashley Thoms following final home game of 2023-24. | Photo Credit: Paul Brecht, HSRN

CHAPTER 4: … To the Other Side of the Bench 

Now finished with playing ball, Davies is far from done with her work in sports. At an early age, her interest was piqued by psychology and trying to figure out how other minds work. After studying psychology for her undergraduate degree, the retired hooper is now close to completing her master’s degree. With her practicum as an internship dealing with behavioral and mental health with University of Hawai’i athletics, Davies is in a familiar place pursuing a passion she’s long had; helping other people.  

Using her education and her personal experiences of dealing with major injury and mental health battles, Davies hopes to work with and help future generations of athletes handle the less glamorous side of being a college student-athlete. 

“I’ve just always been drawn to helping people, making sure people are okay,” Davies said. ”Being able to share myself with other people in that way I think is very, very beneficial.” 

Despite all the setbacks, Davies always provided a beacon of light for her Rainbow Wahine teammates. Though her playing career ended with the highest honors, Davies’ upward trajectory will not stop with the bouncing of the ball. Luckily for UH, her knowledge and care will continue in the islands, too.