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St. John native Keeshawn Davenport receives Eddie Robinson Award

NEW ORLEANS — St. John the Baptist Parish native Keeshawn Davenport, the women’s basketball coach at the University of New Orleans, was selected as the 2020 winner of the Eddie Robinson Award.

The announcement came Wednesday from the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The Eddie Robinson Award has become a prestigious honor in the region since its introduction in 2009. Other awards presented by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee recognize championships, victories and record-breaking, but the Robinson Award is presented annually to an individual in the state of Louisiana who has demonstrated the qualities most closely associated with Coach Robinson: outstanding achievement in athletics, academics, sportsmanship and citizenship by maximizing the use of limited resources.

Most importantly, the Eddie Robinson Award carries the name of a Louisiana legend who coached the Grambling football team for 57 years. While he was known for his 408 career victories, he was more known for the characteristics now recognized by this Allstate Sugar Bowl-sponsored honor.

Davenport, the 2020 Robinson Award winner, recently completed her ninth season at her alma mater, the University of New Orleans. The 2019-20 campaign was a milestone year as the Privateers registered their most wins since 1992-93, finishing the year with a 17-12 record. Included in those 17 wins were a program record 12 conference victories as the team earned the No. 5 seed for the Southland Conference Tournament, though the season was ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s an honor and very humbling to be mentioned in the same sentence as Eddie Robinson,” Davenport said. “Growing up in a household full of Southern Jaguars fans, I had no choice but to know Coach Eddie Robinson and what he accomplished at Grambling. In my short lifetime, I have received some awards, but this award is pretty special.”

While the success on the court was impressive, Davenport has focused on all-around success. An academic honor roll selection during her own playing days, the East St. John alumna ensures that her team excels in the classroom as well – the Privateers posted a team grade-point average of 3.168 this spring. However, it’s in the community where the Privateers have truly made their mark. The program ranked third in the nation and tops in the Southland Conference in the 2020 NCAA Team Workers Helper Community Service Competition out of all NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball programs.

In 2019, Davenport partnered with the nonprofit group Blessed to Be a Blessing to send all 560 sixth graders in St. John Parish on a field trip to UNO to enjoy a day of educational exposure and collegiate basketball. Davenport told L’OBSERVATEUR that she wanted to give middle school students hope for the future and encouragement to do well in school.

Through involvement with community initiatives in conjunction with organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, Einstein Charter Schools and Children’s Hospital, Davenport and her team recorded a stunning 532 hours of community service during the year.

“We are the only school in the city that wears our city name across our chest,” Davenport said. “It’s important to not just wear it across our chest but have the city in our hearts. I’m a firm believer that we are blessed to be a blessing to others. It’s not about what our city can do for us but what we can do for our great city.”

After facing many challenges during her early years at the helm of the program, Davenport has established stability and brought success to UNO basketball. After opening her tenure with just three scholarship players and weathering winless seasons, Davenport’s charges have advanced to four straight Southland Conference tournaments.

“At the beginning of every year, we discuss our theme for the year,” Davenport said. “This past year’s theme was Execution over Effort. Effort has always been there, but we needed to execute more, both on the court and in the classroom. Along with our theme we stated affirmations daily. They were:

‘We can do all things.’

‘We will achieve what we believe.’

‘We must work for it, not wish for it.’

It is my belief that this brought this team together. They didn’t just state the words, but they carried them out.”

The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 64th year in 2020. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.

For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.