Antoine Davis on scoring binge at unheralded Detroit Mercy

DETROIT (AP) — Antoine Davis’ journey into the NCAA record book took a fortunate turn when his father lost a job.

The Detroit Mercy guard moved in middle school from Alabama to Houston, where former NBA coach John Lucas put him through grueling daily workouts, and it changed the trajectory of his basketball career.

“His name wouldn’t be in the record books if I didn’t get fired from UAB,” Titans coach Mike Davis said. “Moving to Houston and working out three times a day with John Lucas made him a different player.”

Davis is the nation’s leading scorer but that doesn’t capture it all. Last week, he broke the Division I record for career 3-pointers with a spectacular performance. He made a personal-best 11 3-pointers in a win over Robert Morris, giving him 513 in a career few saw coming when the 142-pound son of the coach stepped on campus in the Motor City.

And after Detroit Mercy plays this Saturday in Indianapolis against IUPUI, there is a good chance that only the late Basketball Hall of Famer Pete Maravich will be ahead of Davis on the NCAA all-time scoring list.

Maravich scored 3,667 points, an astonishing total over three seasons during an era of college basketball without freshmen, shot clocks or 3-point lines. Davis is just 18 points from passing former Portland State star Freeman Williams, who scored 3,249 points in 106 games from 1974-78.

Davis set the 3-pointer mark in his 130th game, four fewer than the previous record-holder, Fletcher Magee, who played at Wofford from 2014-19. He likely will break the all-division NCAA record for 3-pointers set by John Grotberg, who made his 526th career 3-pointer in 2009 for Division III Grinnell.

He is averaging an NCAA-best 26.2 points, the first Titan to lead the nation in scoring since Spencer Haywood in 1968-69, and has scored in double figures in 130 straight games, an NCAA record.

“Those numbers are surreal at the end of the day,” Davis said. “I still probably won’t feel this until after my college career is over, probably later on down the line, but that’s a lot of points and a lot of 3’s made.”

He passes, too, as evidenced by him joining Keydren Clark of St. Peter’s as the two players in NCAA history with at least 3,000 points and 500 assists.

The Titans (7-12, 3-5 Horizon League) are ninth in their 11-team conference, though Davis is clinging to his dream of getting the program into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

Davis took advantage of an opportunity to play a fifth season, an option for all athletes who were enrolled when the pandemic hit during the 2019-20 season.

Davis entered the transfer portal last spring and was tempted to leave an overlooked basketball program for a major one. Maryland, Georgetown, Kansas State and BYU all offered Davis a chance to play at a higher level.

He had the green light to go, but chose stay despite a lack of fan support at games and financial backing for the basketball program that forces his father to pay a strength coach out of his own pocket to train the slender shooter.

When Detroit Mercy celebrated Davis joining the 3,000-point club by presenting him with a ball on the court before a recent game, there were maybe 200 fans in the stands.

“I just said to my mother, `Where are the students?’” Tamilya Davis said at halftime of a home game against Youngstown State, sitting on a couch in her husband’s office under photos of former Detroit coaches such as Dick Vitale. “I don’t understand it. … There’s no school spirit.”

Maybe bigger crowds are in the future for Davis. The 6-foot-1 guard is generously listed as 165 pounds and his slight frame may give NBA teams pause.

His father is trying to do something about that by hiring a strength coach to personally train him.

“To do the things he’s done at that size and not being wiry strong, but being weak, it tells you about how skilled he is,” Mike Davis said. “And, how much he’s put time into his skill set.”

The 24-year-old Davis was born in Bloomington, Indiana, where his father led the Hoosiers to the 2002 national championship game, and became a skilled basketball player when his father was forced to find a new job a decade ago and landed at Texas Southern.

He began getting homeschooled by his mother in Houston as part of the family’s plan to free up his day for Lucas to train him along his other clients in the league and college basketball.

The extended court time also allowed Lucas to change his shot.

Davis holds the basketball in his right hand and steadies it with his left, like many players, and yet when his right wrist flicks on a shot his left palm rotates in to face the basket in a style that’s all his own.

Lucas groomed Davis with those long workouts while requiring him to make at least 500 shots a day while coaxing him to become more competitive.

Davis has shot up to 10,000 times in a day, according to his father, and once hoisted up 60,000 shots in a 10-day period. Against NBA players and college standouts as a teenager, Davis did full court, one-on-one drills and had 100-possession games to test his mental and physical stamina.

“Nobody was too big in the gym to go against the younger kids, so ‘Toine was going against guys like Damon Stoudamire, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley,” Lucas recalled. “His gift was, and is, scoring.

“The only equalizer for size is a shot,” Lucas said. “If you can make shots, no matter how big or little you are, you will find your way onto the court and there’s not too many people who can shoot like him.”

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