SAN DIEGO — Willie Davis of Morse High School has been a good basketball player for a long time, but he hasn't always looked the part, according to his coach.
Before this season, Ron Davis, Morse's coach, needed a player who could take control of a team that returned only two starters from last year's section 3-A championship squad.
Ron Davis was looking for Willie Davis, but what he saw was a talented young man with curly black hair down to his shoulders. A young man who was more erratic than he was disciplined.
The first thing that had to go was the hair.
"I told him that a basketball player had to look more like an athlete and less like some entertainer," Davis said. "I knew he'd be in the limelight more this season and I wanted him to look the part."
Next, Ron Davis wanted his point guard to play the part.
Willie Davis has been struggling with his role as team leader, but in the fourth quarter of Morse's 78-71 victory over previously second-ranked Lincoln Friday night, he played up to his coach's expectations. He scored 13 of his game-high 24 points and made several key shots as Morse improved to 8-5.
"I gave him a lot of responsibility this season," Ron Davis said. "He calls plays, and sometimes he just has to go one on one. He recognized that he could do that in the Lincoln game, and he made it work for us."
Willie Davis, The Times' Athlete of the Week, wears his hair tightly cropped these days, all the better to show off a wide smile when the subject of the Lincoln game comes up.
Morse led, 52-49, early in the fourth quarter when Davis went to work. He converted two three-point plays and scored on a driving layup in the next four minutes to help Morse open a 67-61 lead. Lincoln twice pulled within two after that, but each time, Davis countered at the other end.
"I've been waiting for a game like that for a while," Davis said. "I've been struggling a little bit (he averages 14.2 points per game) and I wasn't being a very good team leader. But I had a good game and the team had a good game. And I think that will help our confidence level as the season goes on."
Davis, who has four older sisters, has always been trying to make a name for himself.
Nowadays, his parents and sisters come out to watch him play.
"That's great getting a lot of support like that," Willie said. "Even though I was the youngest, my parents supported me with everything I wanted to do."
After this season, Davis wants to play in college, but not in San Diego.
"I think it will be a lot of fun to go somewhere new," he said. "That's what keeps things exciting."
And his coach is pretty excited, too.
"The way he played against Lincoln, it looks like he's becoming a real good leader for our team," Ron Davis said.
He even looks the part.
Morse High School
Position: Point guard
Height, Weight, Class: 6-2, 180, Sr.
Last Week: Scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead Morse to a 78-71 victory over previously second-ranked Lincoln.