Pete Maravich’s all-time NCAA scoring record survives … for now
For nearly two decades, Mike Davis kept the photo his seven-year-old son smiles next to a baby-faced LeBron James.
The head coach of the Detroit Mercy men’s basketball team this season has found himself more often looking at this photo of both characters chasing history.
“I thought, ‘Is this the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and the leading scorer in college basketball history?'” Davis told Sportzshala Sports last week. “What a priceless picture it would be if that happened.”
This future was very close to becoming a reality on Thursday night, but Antoine Davies was missing one flick of his wrist to make it happen. The five-year-old Detroit Mercy high schooler missed a hurried 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a season-ending 71–66 loss to Youngstown State that left him three points short of Pete Maravich’s career NCAA scoring record.
It remains to be seen if Davis will get another chance to break the record. The Detroit Mercy won’t get an NCAA or NIT berth due to its 14-19 record, but after Thursday’s game, Mike Davis hasn’t ruled out entering the low-level College Basketball Invitational.
To play CBI, Detroit Mercy had to receive an invitation and pay a $50,000 entry fee. Any points scored by Antoine Davies in the CBI will count towards the scoring.
“I will definitely accept any invitation,” Mike Davis said after Thursday’s game. He later softened this stance, saying: “It will not depend on me. It depends more on the players. If they really want to play, we’ll be happy to play.”
Antoine Davies said he “wouldn’t have a problem” playing CBI but wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“Everyone wants to get into the NCAA Tournament,” the younger Davis said.
It doesn’t look like the Detroit Mercy will have to resort to CBI consideration with Davis advancing to the Horizon League quarter-finals on Thursday night, 25 points short of Maravich with 3,667 points. Twenty-five seemed like easy work for the big shot specialist, who has averaged 28.4 points this season and topped 30 in eight of his previous nine games.
The calculus changed when Youngstown State unveiled a defensive scheme designed to get anyone but Davis to attack. The top seeded Penguins double-teamed the high-scoring 6-foot-1 combo defender every time he dribbled, every time he saw daylight in transition, every time he curled around the screen to catch and hit. . Sometimes Davis would get caught as soon as he crossed the middle of the court.
In response, Davis struck a balance between looking for his own shot and looking to set up his teammates. He had seven points at half-time, 15 at the start of the second half and 22 by the final buzzer. . He finished 7 of 26 from the floor, including 4 of 16 from three-point range.
It was a relief to some that Davis did not lay claim to a sacred record that had not been threatened in more than half a century. They argued that Davis could not be the rightful college basketball scorer king, that his feat would have been marked with an oversized star. In the end, it took Davis 144 games to get close to what Maravich did in 83.
Maravich played at LSU during an era when freshmen were not yet eligible to go to university. Over the course of three years, he averaged an unfathomable, almost mythical 44.2 points per game, despite not having the advantage of a shot clock or three-point line. Due to rule changes caused by disruptions due to COVID-19, Davis received an NCAA waiver allowing him to play five full seasons with the Detroit Mercy. He scored 25.4 points per game in the struggling Titans program, which set losing records in all but one of its five seasons.
Another factor in the game was Maravich’s mystique. Pistol Pete became a basketball folk hero over the course of his career, a player whose mop haircut and wide socks were appropriate for his era, but whose crowd-pleasing game was ahead of its time. The LSU freshman team consistently outperformed their university during Maravich’s first year on campus. Fans in basketball-apathetic SEC cities flocked to see his plethora of dribbles from behind, no-glance passes and jump shots with the next zip.
Davis, on the other hand, shone with anonymity in an off-radar program. The 8,000-seat Detroit Mercy Arena was less than a quarter full Tuesday night as Davis scored 38 points, extending his team’s season and keeping Maravich’s drive alive. Davis’ quest to break the record aired Thursday night on ESPN+.
Even Mike Davis said last week that if his son surpasses Maravich, they should both be remembered as record holders.
“I feel like Antoine is the best scorer of this generation and Pistol Pete is the best scorer of his generation,” Mike said.
Despite all the differences between Antoine and Pistol Pete, there are striking parallels between them. The younger Davis is also the coach’s son. Like Maravich, he had complete freedom of action to shoot from anywhere and everywhere. And like Maravich, he could put on a show.
Jab steps. Crossover dribbles. Step back. floats. There is no shot in Davis’ arsenal.
He tried all of them on Thursday. Too often they didn’t fall.
If his son broke the record on Thursday, Davis would have a plan for an old photo he took with Antoine and LeBron. The coach says, “I’d take this off my phone and put it on the wall.”
Now the Davises will have to decide if Antoine’s CBI record breaking will lessen some of the achievement’s brilliance.