Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis banks on a valuable NBA skill to make the league — Andscape
CHICAGO — No matter how hard Antoine Davis focused under the watchful eyes of various NBA scouts, coaches, and executives last weekend, he couldn’t help but hear a loyal supporter who pleaded for players to pass his hero the ball.
“I heard every word,” Davis said of 6-year-old Mekhi Dildy, the grandson of former Detroit Mercy assistant coach Tracy Dildy. “I was afraid they were going to kick him out. He’s special to me because he’s such a big fan.”
That encouragement inspired Davis during NBA G League Elite Camp at the Wintrust Arena in the Near South Side of Chicago from May 13-May 14. The camp provided draft prospects an opportunity to showcase themselves in 5-on-5 games and strength and agility drills. A solid performance could have earned Davis an invitation to the NBA draft combine to play against some of the top 2023 draft-eligible players.
It was the latest opportunity for Davis, the two-time Horizon League Player of the Year with Detroit Mercy, to display the skills that gained him notoriety this season in his quest to become the career scoring leader in college basketball. In his final game in March at Youngstown State in the conference tournament quarterfinals, Davis scored 22 points in the loss, and finished three points shy of tying “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s NCAA Division I career scoring mark of 3,667 points.
Maravich set the mark in three seasons at LSU (1967-1970) without the 3-point arc or a shot clock. In five seasons, Davis became college basketball’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (588). And his average of 4.08 3-pointers per game is third-best in NCAA history.
Davis’ chase didn’t come without controversy, especially when Detroit Mercy, which had a losing record, became a possible candidate to play in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The pay-for-play 16-team tournament brought criticism from Maravich’s son, Jaeson, and some of Maravich’s college teammates. They said it unfairly allowed Davis to pad his scoring numbers.
The CBI did not offer an invitation, ending Davis’ bid. He remains satisfied with his effort.
“Of course, you want to break the record, but to be mentioned in the same breath with a guy I learned from by watching YouTube videos is something special,” Davis said. “It’s a record that probably won’t be touched for a long time, so [I’m] OK with being No. 2.”
Since his historic pursuit, Davis won the men’s College Slam 3-Point Contest during the NCAA Final Four in Houston in March. He made 19-of-25 shots to advance to the semifinals, and 15-of-25 to reach the finals. He shot 18-of-25 to win the title over Missouri guard D’Moi Hodge.
“It was special winning the 3-point contest on a big stage like that,” Davis said. “I was also happy to do it for my school. It was a big thing for me to win something like that in a city where I grew up, and where I learned the game from people like coach John Lucas, [and former NBA players] Ricky Davis and Mike James.”
In Chicago, Davis came off the bench in the scrimmage May 13. He made his presence known moments after entering the game with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Moments later, he splashed another 3-pointer from near the top of the key, and followed that with a step-back 3.
Davis played point guard in about half of his 22 minutes. He was credited with one assist, but missed out on another when he saved the ball from going out of bounds and made a baseball pass in the lane, but his teammate’s shot came up short.
Dildy was impressed by the effort.
“Of course, the whole world knows he’s one of the best shooters in the world, so it was important for him to show he can do other things, and he did,” Dildy said. “He was vocal, he ran the floor and he sacrificed his body by taking a couple of charges.”
Davis shot 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 12 points (tied with three other players for the lead). He had two rebounds and one blocked shot.
“I wanted to prove I was more than just a scorer,” Davis said. “I also wanted to show I could play defense.”
On Sunday, Davis didn’t have his best game defensively. He was taken off the dribble at least twice when his man got past him. He also had four turnovers. But Davis made up for it with three steals, two rebounds and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He and teammate Drew Peterson, a guard for USC, led all scorers with 14 points each.
Davis’ eight 3-pointers over the weekend led all players. And he was either first or second in several shooting exercises:
Shooting off the dribble — 93.3% (28 of 30)
3-point star drill — 72% (18/25)
Side-Mid-Side — 66.7% (20/30)
Spot-up shooting — 80% (20/25)
Free throw — 100% (10-10)
Despite his effort, Davis was not among the eight players selected to participate in this week’s NBA draft combine. It may have been due to lapses on defense and being more of a scorer at just 6-feet-1 and 165 pounds than a distributor. Davis averaged 4.1 assists per game over his career. He had the green light in college; he may have to develop other skills on the next level.
Davis remains encouraged.
“I’m not mad because I played as well as I could’ve possibly played to have a chance to participate in the NBA combine,” Davis said. “I’ve been through so much adversity with the record and not being highly recruited out of high school. I’m fine with working my way in getting [to the NBA].”
One scout from the Western Conference, who declined to be identified, said Davis played well enough to get an invitation, and he expects at least 15 NBA teams will call him in for individual workouts.
“I see him getting drafted in the second round anywhere from 55 to 60,” the scout said. “He has an NBA skill: He can shoot the ball.”