UW, WSU guards share first name, Bay Area swagger
Huskies' Jazmine Davis and Cougars' Jazmine Perkins return to Berkeley to face California this weekend.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW women @ Cal, 7 p.m.
WSU at Stanford, 7 p.m.
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Their paths were different.
Washington freshman Jazmine Davis was raised in a two-parent home in San Jose, Calif., packing her own diaper bag as a toddler to join her father on Sunday-morning trips to the gym to play hoops.
Washington State senior Jazmine Perkins seemingly never left the gym as a youth, her mother working long hours and the threat of gangs in Berkley, Calif., making a basketball court her safe haven.
But the guards who play with the bravado worthy of the term "Cali Swag" share a lineage beyond their first names. The Bay Area has become a hotbed for guards, with Alexis Gray-Lawson going the furthest as a member of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.
"There's a ton of Jazmines. There were times where we'd be in the office talking about Jaz and I'm like, 'Which one? We've got six on our recruiting list,' " said first-year Washington assistant coach Kevin Morrison, who spent the past four seasons as California's top recruiter on former coach Joanne Boyle's staff. "But California in general has a ton of talent. There could be anywhere from 20 to 150 coaches watching all of these kids in the July time. And there's a lot of history there."
Gray-Lawson is at the top of that list and served as a role model to those who followed.
"Lexi, that's who players who are guards aspire to be like — that toughness, that killer instinct," Morrison said.
Davis and Perkins wanted to drape themselves in the California Bears' blue and gold like Gray Lawson, an Oakland native. Instead the duo returns home this week to show how they've extended her influence to the Northwest.
Washington (10-5, 2-3 Pac-12) plays at Cal (13-5, 4-2) on Thursday. The Bears hosts the Cougs (9-8, 3-2) in a televised matchup on ROOT Sports at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
"I just wanted to go to Cal because Alexis went to Cal," said Davis, who played AAU hoops for the Bay Area Lady Warriors program like Gray-Lawson and Perkins. "Alexis would come back to practice and we played against her ... but I ended up here and I like the fit."
Perkins really didn't have a choice. Fearful of bad influences close to home, her mother nixed the idea of her daughter attending Cal.
But Perkins liked what she heard in a recruiting call from WSU assistant Mo Hines, giving a verbal commitment without ever visiting Pullman. All that mattered was the yearly trip home. Last season was the sweetest, The Cougars defeated the Bears 68-66 behind 14 points and seven rebounds from Perkins en route to a season sweep.
In a reconfigured Pac-12 schedule, however, the Bay Area schools will not travel to Washington this season, meaning this is likely Perkins' last game against her hometown university.
"I feel like I'm having more fun than I've had in previous years," said Perkins, who leads the Pac-12 in steals (3.0) and also tops the Cougars in scoring (9.0) and rebounding (7.3). "One of my goals was to play for myself because I knew if I did that I would play better. It's more meaningful."
Playing within herself is a goal of Davis', too. She leads all Pac-12 freshmen in scoring (13.6) as an unexpected starting point guard. But Cal features its own freshman point guard in Brittany Boyd, another Berkeley High product whose teams have defeated Davis' since bitty ball.
Cal is also one of the top defensive teams in the country, outrebounding opponents by 17. The Bears are equally impressive offensively, attempting 426 free throws this season and ranking third in offense (70.9).
Davis and Perkins won't flinch, however.
"We like playing against the big dogs. We like a challenge," Perkins said. "And I feel like every Bay Area player that's gone on to college loves to play defense and will say, 'I'm about to come in here and lock this person up.' That's the main swag coming from the Bay — we're not scared of anybody."
Davis agreed, but admitted she's surprised at how well she's handled Pac-12 play. It started with a flurry of turnovers that led to close losses, but without leading scorer and rebounder Regina Rogers in a rivalry matchup on the road last Saturday, Davis' 25 points helped preserve a 33-game win streak against WSU.
"It's a different kind of pressure because you're playing in front of your family," said Davis, who expects more than 40 family and friends at Haas Pavilion. "I've been working on staying calm, and I'm not even going to look in the stands. (But) I feel a lot more comfortable and I feel the confidence (UW coach Kevin McGuff instills) in me. That makes me even more relaxed with the ball. McGuff really trusts me and I like that."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com.
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