CONYERS — With the departure of Delvin Wilson, who spent the past two seasons as the head girls basketball coach at Salem High School, the Seminoles brass wasted little time in finding his replacement.
Shalisha Davis, who has spent the past three seasons as the head girls basketball coach at Central Gwinnett, was tabbed as Wilson’s successor, an opportunity the veteran coach said she couldn’t pass up.
“I’m extremely excited,” Davis said. “I want to play now. If we could start today, I’d be ready to play. I’m excited about the new opportunity and love being here at Salem. I’m humbled and honored for the opportunity and we’re going to turn things around.”
Davis chalked her decision up to leaving Central Gwinnett for Salem to a couple of different things, including location and a want for a new challenge.
“Not only is Salem closer to home, I just felt like the need here for the girls to want to continue to get better, that fits me,” Davis said. “In the interview, when they asked me what would I change, I told them that I wouldn’t change anything. I just want them to come in here and give me a chance.”
Davis inherits a Salem program starving for success. The Seminoles won a combined four games in Wilson’s tenure and last posted a winning season five years ago. After taking over a Central Gwinnett program in an eerily similar position three years ago, Davis said she knows what to expect going in.
“Salem is kind of in the same boat that Central was in when I took over that program,” Davis said. “Low ranked in the region and hasn’t won a lot of games in recent years. I think for me here, it’s all about getting the girls to come out and let them know that they have a coach that is knowledgeable about what is going on and is going to be here and help them succeed.”
Already having an opportunity to meet with a large crop of the Seminoles’ returning players for next season, the proper steps toward improvement have already been taken.
“Just by meeting some of the young ladies, I think I’ve gotten that,” Davis said. “With Central, I had to change their attitude from losing to winning. With this program, the Salem girls want to win. They just need the right coaching staff put in place and we have that now.”
Davis’s three-year tenure at Central Gwinnett featured its fair share of ups and downs, she said. In the end, however, Davis left the program with a career 43-41 record and trips to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs in all three years. This past season, Davis helped the Black Knights to 16 wins, their most since the 2013-14 season.
The Black Knights’ road to 16 wins did not come easy, however. Viewed by many as one of Class 7A’s toughest regions, Davis and Central Gwinnett maneuvered through Region 7, a seven-team field that featured the likes of Norcross, Brookwood and Parkview.
“Our region was one of the toughest,” Davis said. “There were no days off in that region, which made me a better coach. I loved the competition. I was going up against some of the best coaches in the state. It made me step my game up and I was able to go to the state playoffs in each year. That was by far some of the best competition that I’ve had as a coach.”
With Central Gwinnett Davis’s first stop in her career as a head coach, her three years of experience were invaluable, she said.
“I’ve grown so much,” Davis said. “I’ve taken the experiences — the good and the bad — to make me a better coach, on and off the court. I believe it has made me a better coach in certain situations. They weren’t all easy, but they weren’t all hard, either.”
While Davis admitted there will be a few differences with the way she coaches Salem, her coaching style will mostly stay the same.
“You’re going to see a lot of speed,” Davis said. “We’re going to be trapping, we’re going to be pressing. Something similar to what you saw at Central Gwinnett, but with it being different kids and a different program, I have to design some things to fit them and that they’re comfortable with. I’m looking forward to seeing what these girls can do.”
A busy schedule for the month of June, in efforts to get a much-needed jumpstart on the 2019-20 season, has already started to take shape.
“We have a play day with some schools and are also going to be in the Clayton State summer league,” Davis said. “That’s going to be some good competition. We’re going to play two games a day on the 18th and 20th of June. I’m just trying to get their feet wet and trying to create some team chemistry going into the season.”
And while Davis hopes to see instant success on the court this summer, she said she won’t take too much stock in what the scoreboard reads at the conclusion of each game.
“This summer is not going to be about winning or losing,” Davis said. “It’s going to be about team camaraderie and seeing how they gel together. If we don’t win a game, as long as a see the hustle and I know that they’re trying, that will give me something to build upon.”
Prior to coaching at Central Gwinnett, Davis spent one season as an assistant at Tri-Cities high school. Prior to that, she coached at Stockbridge High School as an assistant.