For nearly two decades, Mike Davis has been a darling picture His 7-year-old is smiling next to a baby-faced LeBron James.
Detroit Mercy men’s basketball coach has caught himself glancing at that photo more often this season as both subjects haunt history.
“I was thinking, ‘Is this the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and all-time leading scorer in college basketball?'” Davis told Yahoo Sports last week. “What a priceless picture it would be if that happened.”
This future came agonizingly close to becoming a reality, but Antoine Davis was knocked down with a single flick of the wrist without realizing it. The fifth-year-old Detroit Mercy missed a rushing 3-pointer in the dying seconds of a season-ending 71-66 loss to Youngstown State, leaving him forever three points shy of tying Pete Maravich’s NCAA record.
Davis entered the Horizon League quarterfinals Thursday night by 25 points short of the 3,667 scored by the legendary Maravich at LSU from 1967-1970. It looked like light work for a hard-shooting specialist who scored a nationally best 28.4 points this season and topped 30 points in eight of his previous nine matches.
The calculus changed when Youngstown State unveiled a defensive scheme designed to make anyone but Davis try to turn up the offense. The ranked Penguins fielded a double-team in the high-scoring 6-foot-1 combo guard any time he attacked the dribble, any time he saw daylight in transition, and any time he was scurrying around the screen for a catch and catch opportunity. At times, Davis ran into a trap once he crossed the middle of the field.
In response, Davis struck a balance between catching his shot and striving to make up his teammates. He had seven scores in the first half, 15 early in the second half and only 22 from the last buzzer down the stretch, he got very aggressive, racking up eight of his 26 shots, and the game score hung in the balance through the final four. Extra minutes.
For some, it was a relief that Davis did not claim a sacred record that had remained unthreatened for more than half a century. They argued that Davis could not have been the legitimate scoring king of college basketball, and that his achievement would have come with an oversized asterisk. After all, Davis needed 144 to come close to what Maravich did on 83.
Maravich played at LSU in an era when freshmen were not yet college eligible. For three years, he averaged an almost unfathomable, legendary 44.2 points per game despite not having the advantage of the shot clock or the 3-point line. Due to rule changes caused by the COVID-19 disruptions, Davis received an NCAA waiver allowing him to play five full seasons at Detroit Mercy. He scored 25.4 points per game for a struggling Titans program that has posted losing records in all but one of its five seasons.
Another factor at play was Maravich’s charm. Pistol Pete became a popular basketball hero during his career, a player whose mop haircut and floppy socks were from his era, but whose crowd-pleasing play was ahead of his time. LSU’s freshman team has consistently outperformed the university during Maravich’s first year on campus. Fans flocked to basketball-indifferent SEC cities to see his collection of behind-the-back dribbles, fumble passes, and jump shots on the next zip.
On the other hand, Davis starred in the anonymity of the off-the-radar show. The 8,000-seat Detroit Mercy arena was less than a quarter full Tuesday night when Davis scored 38 points to extend his team’s season and keep his pursuit of Maravich alive. The 6-foot-1 combo guard’s quest to break the record on Thursday night aired on ESPN+.
Even Mike Davis said last week that if his son surpasses Maravich, they should both be remembered as world record holders.
“I feel like Antoine is the best scorer of his generation and Pistol Pete is the best scorer of his generation,” said Mike.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”