Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Young Basketball Player with Meniere's Disease
Kaela Davis takes a temporary timeout
Feb 12, 2013 11:34 AM ET | By Walter Villa
Kaela Davis has always had the ability to score virtually any time she wanted on the basketball court.
But now is not that time.
Davis, a Georgia Tech recruit and the No. 2 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for 2013, has left the Buford (Ga.) team for the rest of the season to get treated for Meniere's disease, an inner-ear disorder characterized by hearing loss and vertigo.
"Every day for a week I tried to convince my parents that I could make my doctors' appointments and still play basketball," Davis said.
She finally realized, however, that her condition is serious and must be addressed immediately. She has been dealing with Meniere's since she was 11 and has permanently lost about 90 percent of her hearing in her left ear. She hasn't played since a Buford loss Jan. 26.
"Now we're concerned about her other ear," said her father Antonio Davis, a former NBA All-Star. "This is something we've never discussed publicly before. We don't want pity for our daughter. But we felt it was something we had to address now because of the decision to pull her from the team."
One day when she has a family of her own, I want her to be able to hear her baby cry.
-- Kendra Davis
The 6-foot-2 Davis, who is expected to be named a McDonald's All-American later this week, plans to play in that game as well as at Georgia Tech next season. The two-time USA Basketball gold medalist was hoping to add a third state title to her résumé this year after winning one at Norcross (Ga.) as a freshman and then another at Buford as a sophomore.
Davis has been battling vertigo once or twice a year, although lately, symptoms of Meniere's have been occurring more frequently.
"It's like someone spins you around quite a few times -- how do you feel then?" she said. "Well, that's how I would feel for 24 hours [when the vertigo hits.]"
Her migraines also make her feel nauseous.
"When I get those headaches," Davis said, "every little movement hurts."
Davis admits she was emotional and "not very mature" when her parents told her she would have to give up a chance at a third state title.
"I understand her disappointment," said her mother, Kendra. "But one day when she has a family of her own, I want her to be able to hear her baby cry."
Now that she has had time to think about it, Davis is on board with her parents' wishes.
"It was a hard decision to make, but I have to worry about myself at some point," she said. "Let's take a step back, figure out what's going on and get a grip on it before it gets worse."
That's a very rational thought process, which is not surprising once you get to know her parents.
Antonio was a 6-9 forward for four NBA teams from 1993 to 2006, making the 2001 All-Star Game while with Toronto. He also served as the president of the NBA Players Association and currently works as an NBA studio analyst for ESPN.
Kendra is an interior designer and events planner who also is well versed in basketball, if only, she said, "by osmosis."
Kaela Davis has won two gold medals with USA Basketball and two state championships in high school.
The couple has two children, Kaela and her 6-8 twin brother A.J., who plays basketball for Buford and has signed with Tennessee.
The twins are best friends even though they are opposites.
"A.J. is way more outgoing and social," Antonio said. "Kaela is more quiet and introverted."
Davis had at one point committed to joining A.J. at Tennessee, the school she grew up rooting for because it's the alma mater of close family friend Candace Parker, who now stars for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
But after Tennessee's Pat Summitt announced she could no longer coach because of early onset dementia, Davis made another excruciatingly difficult decision by choosing to reopen her recruitment.
"It's the hardest and bravest thing I've seen her do," her mother said. "The new coaches at Tennessee are amazing and wonderful, but it's not quite the same thing [as Summitt]."
Davis had to restart her search from scratch.
As it happened, she wants to study engineering, and Georgia Tech, considered an excellent school in the field, is located within minutes of her Atlanta home.
Antonio said he is thrilled that -- unlike many NBA dads -- he has been around to see "tons" of his children's games. And when he sees Kaela, he comes away impressed.
"With her size and quickness and her basketball IQ, it allows her to do a lot of different things," he said. "I've seen her run the point, shoot 3-pointers and guard small forwards.
"She is very versatile, but I think she is most comfortable as a scorer, coming off screens and shooting the ball."
Davis, who is averaging 21 points per game, can score virtually any time she wants, her dad said, but just not right now.
"Her health is the most important thing," he said. "I don't want her to deal with this for the rest of her life. This is something we need to address now."