Pete Maravich’s seemingly unbreakable NCAA career scoring record in jeopardy of being broken
About a week ago, Jason Maravich was working out at the gym when he learned that one of his father’s most unshakable records was in jeopardy.
A friend mentioned that he heard there is a player who is about to surpass Pete Maravich’s NCAA record of 3,667 career points, a mark that has stood since 1970.
“I was stunned,” Jason told Sportzshala Sports. “At first I really thought he was joking until I went home and looked.”
A quick Google search confirmed to Jason that his friend wasn’t joking with him. Antoine Davis, a slippery 6-foot-1 defenseman from the under-the-radar Detroit Mercy, has overtaken all but Pistol Pete as the top scorer in college basketball’s Division I. The son of Detroit Mercy coach Mike Davis scored 3,604 points in his five-year college career, 63 points short of a record that had not previously been threatened in more than half a century.
Whether Davis Jr. can catch up to Maravich depends on how far the Detroit Mercy can go in this week’s Horizon League tournament. If the eighth seed Titans make it to the quarterfinals, Davis would need to average 32 points to break the record, a daunting but not impossible feat for a player who has averaged 28.1 points this season. If the Detroit Mercy surpasses all expectations and advances to the semi-finals, then Davis, eclipsing 3667 points, will move from possible to probable.
Just a few weeks ago, LeBron James ousted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the NBA career top scorer list after weeks of toadying hype and fanfare. To say that Davis’ pursuit of Maravich’s college record hasn’t received the same amount of attention is a colossal understatement. The 8,000-seat Detroit Mercy Arena was barely a third full on Saturday afternoon during Davis’ home final and jersey exit ceremony. The day Michigan State took the lead in Iowa, Davis’ 34 points was not a record high in the Detroit market, let alone nationally.
“How does this not attract more attention?” Jason wondered aloud last week. “I thought people would attach more importance to it.”
It was easy for some to ignore Davis’ accomplishment because it took him 141 games to get close to what Maravich did at 83. And because Davis’ scoring exploits didn’t propel the Detroit Mercy to championship titles and NCAA tournament bids.
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 shot timer advantage or the three-point line. Davis scored 25.3 points per game under the Detroit Mercy program, which set a losing record in all but one of its five seasons. He took advantage of an NCAA waiver giving athletes an additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Yet to discredit Davis because he is not the second coming of Maravich is to miss out on what makes his story extraordinary. This little-known combo defenseman brought his father’s vision to life and made his way into college basketball’s rarest atmosphere.
Making a 6-foot 1, 150-pound outlier
When his son took up basketball in earnest more than a decade ago, Mike Davis didn’t quite understand how to teach the basics of the sport to a schoolboy. The former head coach of the Alabama-Birmingham team turned to the mustachioed showman, known for his collection of jump shots, dribbling through his legs and passes without a look, for help.
On weekday afternoons and weekends, Mike would let Antoine study a series of instructional videos that Pete Maravich created in the 1980s to teach kids about dribbling, passing and shooting. Then Antoine went out to the entrance to the spacious family house in Birmingham and repeated the movements that Maravich demonstrated.
“A lot of the time people can do something but they can’t teach it,” Mike told Sportzshala Sports. “Pete could teach that. The way he explained how he does it was so easy. You didn’t have to be a basketball coach to understand.”
While Antoine’s pursuit of Maravich’s performance didn’t officially begin until he first donned the Detroit Mercy jersey five years ago, the truth is that he began chasing basketball immortality long before then. Mike got Antoine to treat basketball like a full-time job shortly after the elder Davis was hired by Texas Southern in 2012 and the family moved to Houston.
Antoine began grueling daily workouts with former NBA coach John Lucas. He developed his arsenal of jabs, stepbacks, and crossovers by throwing thousands of throws a day and playing countless 1-on-1 balls. If Mike heard stories about how Kobe Bryant did a certain exercise 100 times, then Antoine would do it 500 times. After all, Kobe was blessed with ideal size, strength and athleticism. Antoine was a mortal at 6’1″ and weighed 150 pounds.
Mike was inspired in part by reading The Mind by Carol Dweck, which argues that success is based on hard work and learning from failure, not fixed traits like talent or intelligence. Mike believed he could apply these doctrines to help his lean son maximize his basketball potential.
“When you look at Antoine, he’s not 6-5 or 250 pounds,” Davis said. “He is what every kid who plays basketball looks like. I knew we had to make an effort to make him a really good college basketball player.”
Just as Maravich joined in fighting and pickup games with his father’s North Carolina State players when he was still in high school, Antoine did the same in South Texas. Mike still has videos of Antoine driving the scout team’s offense and setting five-year-old defenders on fire with his lightning-fast first pitch and incredibly deep three-point shot.
Homeschooled in high school, Antoine went unnoticed by most college coaches and all major recruiting services. Only Houston coach Calvin Sampson noticed the hometown product. calling him “the best shooter I’ve seen in this state.”for four years in Houston.
Antoine originally signed with Houston, but then changed his mind, following his father to the Detroit Mercy. At the time, the Titans were finishing the season with 24 losses and had only a handful of returning players.
This left Mike no choice but to put the ball in his son’s hands and give him free rein from day one. Antoine scored 32 points in his college debut against Western Michigan. Three days later, he burned Temple for 30. The Detroit Mercy lost 20 times that season, but Antoine led all freshmen in scoring with 26.1 points per game.
This scheme continued year after year as Mike rotated players in a vain attempt to build a capable cast around his son. The only constant was that Antoine created a sliver of space for himself by dribbling or running around the screens and shooting from anywhere and everywhere.
Antoine claims that until he went to the transfer portal last spring to explore his options, he never thought he could beat Maravich. He assumed it was out of reach until he visited BYU and received an unexpected recruitment offer.
Before Antoine Davis arrived last April, BYU coach Mark Pope made a spiral-bound book to present the coveted Detroit Mercy transfer. Each page contained an image of the college’s hoops badge and a number indicating how many career points he had scored.
As Antoine and his father climbed the steps of the Marriott Center during their visit, Pope flipped through the pages of the book one by one. It all started with Michael Jordan and other luminaries that Antoine has already surpassed. Then came the players that Antoine was still chasing.
“At the very end he had Toin with 3668 points, one more than Pistol Pete,” recalled Mike Davis.
After a visual demonstration, Pope explained how many points Antoine would need to average and how many games he would have to play to score 3668 points. The message was that he had a chance to break the record and that Pope would try to help him do it if he came to BYU.
“That’s when I really noticed it,” said Mike Davis. “Because Pistol Pete, for my generation, is the best at scoring goals in basketball. I thought, “Wow, this is really exciting.”
Antoine has been hearing from some of the top college basketball teams after posting his name on a transfer portal. Over time, he narrowed his interest to BYU, Kansas State, Georgetown, and Maryland, all programs that needed a high-scoring quarterback. He visited campuses. He drove around shiny objects. He listened to every coaching staff’s opinion on how to use it. And then he returned to the Detroit Mercy. It didn’t seem right for him to finish college somewhere else.
However, Pope’s presentation on the steps of the Marriott Center made an impression. For the first time, Antoine wondered what it would be like to surpass the man whose instructional videos he had watched as a child. For the first time, breaking a record became his goal, although he lagged behind participation in the NCAA tournament.
Despite opponents throwing all sorts of double-teams, traps and unnecessary defense at Antoine this season, he increased his average to a career-best 28.1 points without scoring more shots or making more turnovers. In November, he overtook the likes of J.J. Redick and Larry Bird as the top scoring player in college basketball. Then he eclipsed the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Oscar Robertson.
By the end of January, there was no one left between Davis and Maravich.
“It’s crazy to even think that I’m in such company,” Antoine said. “Ten or 11 years ago I was working on…