LARAMIE — For the record, Jerayah Davis and Justin James have never raced. And they don’t plan to.
“When I first saw her run,” James said, “I was like, ‘Wow, this girl is really fast.’”
He’s not the only one. Davis, a junior on the Wyoming track and field team, owns school records in the outdoor 100-meter dash and indoor 60-meter dash.
But both James and Davis, who have been dating for nearly two years, agree that James would win a race between them.
So, it hasn’t happened.
“It hurts to say that,” Davis said, “but he would beat me for sure. My pride, I just can’t do it.”
James, of course, is not your typical boyfriend. In addition to being the self-proclaimed fastest player on the Wyoming men’s basketball team, James is also one of the elite scorers in the Mountain West, one of two players averaging more than 20 points per game in conference play.
Together, they comprise a duo that Davis’ teammates have jokingly dubbed “J.J.,” which is what most people call James himself. But some have also referred to them as Wyoming’s “First Couple.” Considering their successes within athletics, and their supportive nature away from them, it’s tough to argue otherwise.
It should come as no surprise that both James and Davis are competitive people.
“In our relationship, everything’s a competition,” Davis said. “So it causes some issues sometimes, because it’s like, ‘Well, mine’s better. No, mine’s better. Well, I do this better.’ Because we’re just so competitive. We argue a lot about those kinds of things, but nothing serious.”
For example ...
“I always joke with him like, ‘Me and (your sister) are going to be best friends,’” Davis said. “And it’s funny, because he does the same thing with my brother. Another competition, like who’s going to be friends with siblings first.”
But when it comes to their individual sports, they each know to stay in their lane.
“He’s supportive, but it’s hard to be supportive in track,” Davis said. “... I know that he thinks I’m talented, and he knows I have a good block start, so he’ll tell me, ‘Good job with that.’ He knows those things. Like, ‘You could finish better.’ So that’s cool, to get an outsider’s perspective, because he doesn’t know anything about track.”
And in basketball?
“The only time she gets on me is when I miss free throws,” James said.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Davis said. “They’re free. Make them. But that’s really all I know about basketball, so I don’t try to talk to him about other stuff.”
Well, she could be of some assistance if James were any slower.
“His running form is terrible,” she said. “But whatever. It works for him.”
As an intern with the Wyoming athletics sports media staff, Davis gets a front-row seat to James’ home games.
“If he’s having a really good game, which happens all the time, it’s exciting and it’s fun,” she said. “My adrenaline’s pumping. My heart is beating really fast and stuff, like when they go into overtime, the 12 million times they have. But if he’s having a tough game — I can’t remember the last time he had a bad game — then I’m more sad and more supportive.”
Maybe that helps explain Wyoming’s home-court advantage.
“Seeing her in the stands for my games is definitely like, ‘OK, bae’s here to watch me play,’” James said. “‘So let’s play.’”
One big difference between Davis and James is their proximity from home. A Kelly Walsh graduate, Davis is just 2 hours south of her family. James, on the other hand, is more than 2,000 miles from his home of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The two have made about five joint trips to Casper in the last year or so, Davis estimated.
“During the season we don’t have a lot of time,” James said, “but whenever we have two off days, it’s definitely something that we do.”
While the Oil City gives James a much closer home base, Davis wouldn’t say that he views it as a home away from home.
“Because Florida is so amazing,” she said. “And Casper is, you know, not Florida.”
The bigger perk is getting to see more of the state that his team represents.
“Every time we go, people are always like, ‘Oh my gosh. Are you Justin James? Can I get your autograph?’” Davis said. “We went and watched my brother’s soccer game this fall, and all of his little teammates after brought him their soccer shoes and were like, ‘Will you sign our soccer shoes?’ It was funny. So, I think he likes that, that he can go to more places in the state and see more fans.”
Davis has also made a couple trips to Florida, which she enjoyed. But she hasn’t been able to get James to embrace the water sports that Wyoming has to offer.
“He won’t go to a lake,” she said. “He has a thing, because in Florida, there’s alligators and things that can eat you in lakes. So he just has this thing in his head where he can’t. He cannot go into a lake. It’d be cool, because they go boating and stuff in the ocean in Florida, so I felt like he should come.”
For Davis, the benefits of going to school nearby are myriad.
“I really just like that I’m home and can represent my state the way that I should be able to,” she said. “Instead of if I was in USC still, I wouldn’t be able to represent it the same. So, I really like that. I like that my mom’s close, and that she can come watch me. And the support system here is crazy. Everyone just wants to see you do well. That’s really nice. And it’s fun. It makes the environment fun.”
As a freshman, Davis got her own taste of going to college far from home when she competed at Southern California.
“It makes me appreciate (James) so much more,” she said. “Because obviously it did not work out for me. Like, I did not like it. And he’s doing really well.
“Obviously, Laramie, Wyoming, is a lot different from Port St. Lucie, Florida. So he’s done a really good job adjusting to Laramie and being able to survive here. I’m really proud of him for that, because I couldn’t do that. I didn’t do it.”
Wyoming men’s basketball assistant Jeremy Shyatt said he’s seen Davis have a positive effect on James in their time together.
“I’ve told him that usually 6s go for 6s and 10s go for 10s and he’s way out-punted his coverage,” Shyatt joked. “You talk about us being good recruiters, he did a good job of recruiting her.”
Some say that celebrities can only date other celebrities, because no one else can relate to that lifestyle. That might not be entirely applicable to college athletes, but they certainly have responsibilities that differ from a standard student’s.
“From a time management standpoint, from an academic standpoint, from a competitive standpoint, I think that you have to have that balance,” Shyatt said. “And sometimes it’s tricky when you’re 18 to 22 years old. So I think anytime you can gain some perspective on the situation from someone who is sharing some of the same experiences as you are but in a different sport, I think it’s only going to be positive.”
Part of that is understanding the harsh reality of what it takes to be a college athlete.
“I have a sweet tooth,” Davis said. “He’ll be like, ‘You’re in season. What are you doing?’ So that’s cool, because he gets on me about that.”
Said James: “She understands whenever I’m just tired or whenever I just need to sleep. Because we’re all so exhausted after what we do during the day.
“So it’s definitely a benefit having someone that’s going through the same stuff, because we’re going through it together. We know what to expect.”
Considering the on-field results, the benefits appear to be mutual.
“From a standpoint of being a good influence, being a good person, you can never surround yourself with enough good people,” Shyatt said. “And that’s exactly what J.J.’s been able to do.”