For nearly two decades, Mike Davis has valued a photo of his then 7-year-old son smiling alongside a baby-faced LeBron James.
The Detroit Mercy men’s basketball coach has caught himself looking at that picture more often this season, with both motifs in search of history.
“I’ve been thinking, ‘Is this the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and the all-time leading scorer in college basketball history?'” Davis told Yahoo Sports last week. “What a priceless photo it would be if that happens.”
That future was so close to becoming a reality, but Antoine Davis just needed a single wrist to make it happen. The Detroit Mercy fifth-year senior missed a rushing three-pointer in the final seconds of a 71-66 season-ending loss to Youngstown State, forever putting him three points shy of Pete Maravich’s NCAA career scoring record.
Davis entered Thursday night’s Horizon League quarterfinals 25 points shy of the 3,667 tallied by the legendary Maravich at LSU from 1967-1970. It seemed like easy work for a tough shooting specialist who averaged a national-best 28.4 points this season and had surpassed 30 in eight of the previous nine games.
The calculus changed when Youngstown State unveiled a defensive scheme designed to make everyone but Davis try to create offense. The top-seeded Penguins sent a double team to the high-scoring 6-foot-1 combo guard anytime he attacked off the dribble, anytime he saw daylight in transition, anytime he curled around a screen for a catch-and-shoot -possibility. Davis sometimes faced a trap as soon as he crossed midfield.
In response, Davis found a balance between chasing his own shot and trying to set up his teammates. He had seven points at halftime, 15 early in the second half and 22 by the final buzzer. Only down the stretch did he become ultra-aggressive, hoisting eight of his 26 shots with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance during the final four. -plus minutes.
For some, it was a relief that Davis did not claim a hallowed record that had stood unchallenged for more than half a century. They argued that Davis could not be college basketball’s rightful scoring king, that his feat would have come with a superstar. After all, Davis needed 144 games to approach what Maravich did in 83.
Maravich played at LSU during a time when freshmen were not yet varsity eligible. For three years, he averaged an unfathomable, almost mythical 44.2 points per game despite not having the benefit of a shot clock or 3-point line. Due to rule changes caused by COVID-19 disruptions, Davis received an NCAA waiver that allowed him to play five full seasons at Detroit Mercy. He averaged 25.4 points per game for a struggling Titans program that has posted losing records in all but one of his five seasons.
The other factor at play was Maravich’s mystique. Pistol Pete became a basketball folk hero during his career, a player whose mop-top haircut and floppy socks were of his time, but whose crowd-pleasing game was ahead of his time. LSU’s freshman team consistently pulled out of the varsity during Maravich’s first year on campus. Fans in basketball-apathetic SEC towns flocked to see his streak of behind-the-back dribbles, no-look assists and next-zip jump shots.
Davis, on the other hand, has shone in anonymity on an off-the-radar program. Detroit Mercy’s 8,000-seat arena was less than a quarter full Tuesday night as Davis scored 38 points to extend the team’s season and keep the pursuit of Maravich alive. The 6-foot-1 combo guard’s quest to break the record Thursday night streamed on ESPN+.
Even Mike Davis said last week that if his son surpassed Maravich, they should both be remembered as record holders.
“I feel Antoine is the best scorer of this generation and Pistol Pete is the best scorer of his generation,” Mike said.