The sidewalk acted as Christian Davis’ basketball court.
It was all he had growing up. Without a hoop to shoot at, he dribbled up and down the sidewalk outside of his house in Yelm.
“I’d come home, do some homework and just work on my ball handling,” Davis said. “I was always bringing a ball with me. I’d always have a ball in the back of my mom’s car. Every time we went to Tacoma to visit family, there’d be parks out there, so I’d go play.
“I remember driving through housing developments and seeing all of these hoops, and I was like, ‘Man, I wish I had one.’ ”
Davis averaged 26.1 points per game this season. He finished the regular season with the third-highest scoring average in the South Sound, and led the Yelm High School boys to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
The Olympian’s All-Area boys basketball player of the year said he got his first regulation-sized hoop last summer.
“He really wanted a basketball hoop, and I couldn’t afford a brand-new one,” said Veronika Davis, Christian’s mother.
A friend told her about the OfferUp app, where she might find a second-hand basketball hoop.
“They were still pretty expensive, even the used ones,” she said. “I put my phone down and then came back a couple minutes later and one popped up for 10 bucks. I was so excited.”
Veronika and her daughter Emoni Davis, 19, drove to pick up the hoop, disassembled it and shoved it in the back of her van.
“(Christian) was like a little kid in a candy store when we got it home,” she said.
The hoop is free-standing, and a step up from anything else Davis has owned. His older brother Alfred Davis — who went to Lincoln High School and Western Washington University, and now plays in South Korea — helped build a hoop when Christian was 6. It had a wooden backboard and was held up by a stray pole they found.
Alfred dunked on that hoop and broke it. This is the first hoop Christian — one of 10 children in his family that includes five boys and five girls — has had since. And it has some quirks, too.
“I have to keep measuring it and raising it, and sometimes the rim falls down, so I’ve got to push it back up,” he said.
But it’s a hoop. And Davis said the sagging rim hasn’t been much of a problem. His stats back it up.
In Yelm’s first game against Rogers on Nov. 28, Davis scored a season-high 44 points — including six 3-pointers. He scored 30 points or more eight times this season and had 521 total.
“He’s a very big fish in a small pond,” Yelm coach Jordan Barnes said. “He’s kind of what everybody wanted to see from a player out here, but they never got the opportunity.”
Davis scored in double digits in all but two games this season. He scored five against South Kitsap on Jan. 27, when he reinjured a sprained ankle and left the game early. And he scored seven in his first game back on Feb. 10 against top-ranked Federal Way.
His value was proven in his absences. Davis missed four games and Yelm went 1-3 without him.
Phil Begon, who has been announcing Yelm basketball games since 1992, said Davis is the most productive offensive player to come out of Yelm in more than two decades.
“He kind of came to life last year, but this year, he was just out of bounds he was so good,” Begon said. “In my tenure here, I cannot remember a more prolific scorer than he was this last season. This young man can shoot from anywhere on the court. You pick a spot, and he’s more than willing to put it up from anywhere.”
Olympia coach John Kiley’s team played Yelm twice this year. Davis scored 55 points against the Bears and gained a fan in Kiley.
“The second time (we played him) we had a really difficult time containing him,” Kiley said. “He took the ball to the basket with authority and at will. I thought his versatility and his ability to not just shoot the ball, but his ability to get to the rim, really affected us.
“He knows he’s a scorer, he’s prepared well, and then he comes at you. He’s not afraid to be that alpha male, and wore that role very nicely.”
Veronika Davis said her son has always been a high-caliber player — he started playing recreational basketball in fifth grade — but lacked confidence. That changed this season.
“I believe I’m one of the greatest players to ever come out of Yelm,” he said. “And I want to go make a name for Yelm. I want to be that person where it’s like, ‘Where’s he from?’ And people will be like, ‘Where?’ ‘I’m from Yelm, Washington.’
“One day, people are going to know where Yelm, Washington, is.”
Davis said he rebuked suggestions to transfer to city schools that house perennial basketball powerhouses.
“He’s just a very loyal kid,” Veronika Davis said. “He had opportunities to go play in either Tacoma schools or Seattle schools. He was just very adamant that he wanted to graduate from Yelm High School.”
Said Barnes: “Christian is transcending. He’s the last of a dying breed in that he wanted to do it his way, and was loyal to his community and stuck to his roots. He said, ‘I want to do it here, and I want to be successful this year.’ ”
So he stayed, and led Yelm to its first playoff berth since 2003. The Tornados fell one game short of the Class 4A state regionals.
Davis has not committed to play in college yet, but has attracted attention from schools such Seattle University, Montana, Idaho and Lewis-Clark State. He said he will make a decision in the spring.
“I want to take my time on this,” he said. “Wherever I go, I want to be comfortable and I want to be great.”
He has a hoop to shoot on until then — the goal has been 1,000 shots per day. When he hit the 5,000-shot mark last summer, Alfred sent him the black-and-red Nike Kobe 11 Elites he wore this season.
“Everybody likes new shoes,” Christian said.