Family, Basketball and the Heart of Community Missions

Amos and Phyllis Davenport have been involved in Union University Women’s basketball for 32 years, taping more than 1,000 videos and traveling over 150,000 miles . Through this time they have built countless relationships and acquired many stories.

“Before there were such things as cell phones,” Amos Davenport said, “We left one of the managers in this podunk town. We were 20 miles down the road before we realized we left her back there.” He shook his head as he finished the story of them turning around and finding the girl crying in the phone booth.

Former Union University women’s head coach, David Blackstock, asked Mr. Davenport to help film the basketball games in 1985.

“When he asked me to help, I never thought it would become part of our lives,” Mr. Davenport said.

Mr. Davenport videos women’s game.

Mr. Davenport not only filmed the games, transferred them to VHS, called the stats in, but also began to drive the 26 passenger bus for the women’s team with Mrs. Davenport riding shotgun. He looks back on the years with Coach Blackstock and recalls not only how good a coach he was, but also how good a man.

“He was a man of very few words,” Mrs. Davenport said. “But he got his point across.”

“One time we were playing Belmont,” Mr. Davenport said. “We were playing so bad and were down at the half. Coach Blackstock walked in, threw the Gatorade bucket across the room and walked out. We won that game.”

“He was the most godly man I’ve ever met,” Mr. Davenport said. “He told us ‘I can’t do this without y’all, y’all have to stay with me.’ And we have.”

The Davenports traveled through 15 different states and even to the Bahamas with the Lady Bulldogs. They’ve spent the past 32 Thanksgivings with Union’s women’s basketball team and roughly the past 32 wedding anniversaries.

“Our kids would just stay with kinfolk for Thanksgiving,” Mrs. Davenport said. “They didn’t care.”

The Davenports celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago. They both laughed as they revealed their two kids planned  a surprise party. The joke was their daughter checked the schedule and then called head coach Mark Campbell to make sure there wasn’t a basketball game that weekend.

The Davenports both grew up in a small town in Missouri. Their local high school teams were always big rivals.

“I asked her to go to the football game with me,” Mr. Davenport said. “She said ‘no.’ So I took someone else . . . She never said no again.”

The game was in the middle of September and the following November the two were engaged. That February they got married and they graduated high school in June.

“You had to be 21 to get married,” Mrs. Davenport said. “His momma had to sign the wedding papers.”

The Davenports look back fondly over the past 32 years with the Lady Bulldogs. They recalled all of the families they became a part of through the basketball team. They hosted dinners for the team and played cards with the women on road trips.

“We became family with these girls,” Mrs. Davenport said. “Our grandchildren were in some of their weddings.”

Once Union moved to Division II, the relationship between boosters/fans and the women on the team changed. There is more of a professionalism feel then a family relationship between the beloved fans of Union basketball and their team.

Mrs. Davenport watches women’s game.

“When Mary Kathrine broke the three-point record, we called her daddy on the phone so he could see it,” Mr. Davenport said.

The two continued to talk about the close bond they built with the women and their families.

“You really get to missing these people,” Mrs. Davenport said.

Mrs. Davenport started working at Union in 1984. She retired in 2015 and now takes care of her five grandchildren  and three great grandchildren, works at her church and volunteers two days a week at Birth Choice.

While working at Union, Mrs. Davenport took time out of her day to hand write numerous students Christmas cards and ‘thinking-of-you’ letters (I was lucky enough to receive one of those thoughtful Christmas cards my freshman and sophomore year).

This couple has a heart for Union and basketball, but an even greater heart for God.

“If we can make a difference in just one girl’s life,” Mr. Davenport said, “all of this is worth it.”

“They are the epitome of what we are called to do as believers,” assistant women’s coach, Lauren Sumski said. “They worship in everything that they do, whether it is serving the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Union or repairing houses for flood victims.”

The last hurricane that went through Louisiana left a friend homeless. It didn’t take Mr. and Mrs. Davenport long to gather up enough supplies and manpower to travel to Louisiana and get her back on her feet and in a home.

Mr. Davenport recalls how they had a crew but needed a hotel and money.

“All the churches were full,” Mr. Davenport said. “We made a few calls and God provided. We do it because God has given us the time and resources.”

The couple also helps out at the Hope Center in Jackson. A few Christmases ago they had the privilege of gifting a woman and her son a car.

“They both walked to work or school rain or shine every day and then to the Hope Center,” Mr. Davenport said. “I called my brother to see if he had a car she could have. He did.”

The Hope Center presented the car to the pair and the little boy ecstatically said, “Momma! No more wet feet!”

From there, the woman got a degree from Bethel University, bought herself a new car and gave the old one to someone else.

“God puts you in a certain place, with certain people, at a certain time to get things done,” Mr. Davenport said.

And that is very much the call they live by.

Image courtesy of Natalie Smith|Cardinal & Cream