Courtney (Davidson) O'Brien is the quintessential Patriot League student-athlete with her accomplishments both on the basketball court and in the classroom. O'Brien earned all-League honors during each of four campaigns in Annapolis, including First-Team honors during her final three seasons.
Her name is prominent in the Patriot League and Navy record books. She is the fourth-leading scorer in League history (1,957) which is also a Naval Academy record. She led Navy in scoring in each of her four seasons. O'Brien was twice named the Patriot League Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Academic All-America (2003, 2004). She was also named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll during each of her four years.
The Davidson tradition continued at the Naval Academy when her younger sister, Whitney, played a large role for the Mids before graduating in 2009.
Four-time member of Patriot League Academic Honor Roll
Q: What factors helped in your decision to attend the U.S. Naval Academy?
A: My father talked me into taking an official visit to the Academy; otherwise, I had no interest. However, after visiting for a weekend, I was amazed by the sense of purpose, loyalty, and dedication of the girls on the basketball team. I wanted to be part of it. It was pre-September 11, 2001, and I knew that I would have a guaranteed job five years after graduation. I had no insight into the military lifestyle at that point, but decided I would accept the challenge and attend one of the most prestigious schools in the nation.
Q: Who were your sports idols growing up and why?
A: I absolutely loved Cal Ripken, Jr. I grew up watching every Orioles game in the summer. I collected all of his baseball cards, knew all of his stats, and wore the number 8 for my baseball, and later, softball teams. I admired how he always did everything the right way, the way he learned from his father. He is a great role model who never got in trouble with the law or made headlines for the wrong reasons. Plus, he was out there day in and day out, just like I wanted to be.
Q: What was your proudest on-the-field accomplishment?
A: Beating Army in a triple-overtime thriller at home (March 1, 2003), and playing all 55 minutes.
Q: What was your proudest academic accomplishment?
A: Being honored as an Academic All-American, and proving that with all of the demands of being a Division I athlete, that you can still work hard and get good grades in the classroom, even in the challenging academic environment of the Naval Academy.
Q: How were you able to balance the demands in the classroom with the demands of being an athlete?
A: Simple: time management. I had to balance basketball, academics, and the professional commitments of being a midshipman. If I had schoolwork to do, and we were on the road, I would use every free moment on the bus, in the hotel, or at the airport to complete my assignments.
Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
A: As part of a team, you need to know how to get the most out of each and every person on the team. You know what makes them "tick" and what might cause them to have a day when the intensity isn't there. You know, as a leader, that you have to set the example every day. As a Marine officer, I am doing the same thing every day with my Marines, but with more serious consequences.
Q: What was life in the military like after graduation?
A: I spent about three years going through The Basic School and flight school, learning to be a KC-130J pilot. The time management and study skills I learned at the Naval Academy benefited me immensely. For the past three years, I have been assigned to VMGR-352 at MCAS Miramar. I have deployed to Afghanistan for about seven months and put all of my training into practice.
Q: If you could go back to college and compete one more time, where would it be and against whom?
A: I would want to play Army again at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, with a packed house of course.
Q: If you had to offer current student-athletes some words of wisdom what would they be?
A: I would tell them that in order to do something correctly and become successful, you have to put your best effort into it. You can simultaneously put your best effort into different aspects of your life, and you shouldn't limit yourself to one arena.
Q: Do you still follow Navy athletics?
A: Yes, I watch the Army-Navy football game every year, usually with other alumni. Additionally, I followed the women's basketball team particularly closely until 2009, since my sister, Whitney, was on the team.
Q: Looking back, what does it mean to you to have been a Patriot League student-athlete?
A: It means that I was able to succeed at one of the most academically-rigorous schools in the country and fulfill my dream of playing Division I basketball.
Q: Can you share some of you experiences with your career in the military?
A: The bonds you build with teammates is extremely important while you're in school, but the friendships have carried on beyond. Lisa Steinmetz ('03) and I followed similar career paths after graduation, both attending graduate school, then becoming Marine pilots. We remain close friends to this day. In 2009, I was briefly in Al Asad, Iraq, delivering a fresh KC-130J to theater. I had one night, and decided I was going to find Lisa, who I knew was somewhere near the helicopters on the base. I found her (and surprised her quite a bit), then we went outside where the Marines had set up a makeshift basketball court in one of Saddam Hussein's old bunkers. We played HORSE, and I won (of course). There we were playing basketball in Iraq, in our flight suits, with our pistols off to the court. Basketball was the impetus that got us to the Naval Academy, which taught us how to be leaders and serve our country.