If you take a look at the leaderboard of this season's top scorers in college basketball, you'll see a lot of upperclassmen—names that, even at the mid-major level, likely evoke a degree of familiarity: Chris Clemons, Jermaine Marrow, Justin Wright-Foreman, Carsen Edwards, Mike Daum.
But the player sitting at No. 2 with 27.4 points per game—Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis—is only a freshman, one with just 10 games to his college career. And so you might be asking: Who’s that?
It’s not an unreasonable question. A homeschooled guard from Houston, Davis wasn’t heavily recruited. Part of that, though, was by design. And now, teaming up with his dad, Detroit Mercy head coach Mike Davis, and brother, assistant Mike Davis Jr., the Davis clan is hoping to take the Titans back to the tournament—all while letting Antoine’s ability shine through.
The way the Davis family sees it, the traditional way of developing a basketball player is askew. What’s the point of going to a tournament a day’s drive away to play 20 minutes against mediocre competition? You’re not working on your skills; you’re not getting better. All Mike Davis wanted to do for his son was ensure that his skill set was elite.
So they homeschooled him in Houston. Davis, who was the coach at Texas Southern from 2012 to 2018, also in Houston, would have Antoine come to practices, where he tested his skills on a regular basis against Division I players who went to back-to-back NCAA tournaments.
Antoine also trained with legendary coach John Lucas in Houston, working out two-to-three times a day. He’d go up against top players like Justise Winslow when Winslow was at Duke, and Justin Jackson when he was at UNC. “I’ve seen him go up against top competition, and be successful,” says Davis Jr.
The workouts were grueling. Two-to-three thousand shots a day. (The personal record in a 24-hour span is 10,000 shots). Running full court for an hour and a half three times a day.
“There would be days where he would make you want to quit,” Antoine says. But it was all building toward something.
“He didn’t do it in the traditional way,” Mike Davis says. “But he got a chance to go against NBA and college players in the summer. In the winter, he had personal attention from Coach Lucas. I want his skill set to be crazy good. I want him to be sore from his work. What can you say you do that no one else is doing? I didn’t want to sacrifice his skill for the weights.”
Those workouts got him a spot at Houston, where he signed in 2017. However, once Davis left for Detroit, Kelvin Sampson, Houston’s coach, allowed him to go with with his dad. “He was so kind to me,” Davis says of Sampson.
Antoine isn’t going to blow away anyone with his size—6’ 1”, 170—but already in his young career, he is an elite shooter. He's second in the country in three-point field goal attempts (122), and still makes 44% of those shots. “It’s paid off,” Antoine says. “[Shooting is] the most comfortable part of my game.”
The easiest part, for a scrawny freshman who didn’t play against major high school competition, has been the transition. He’s been playing against D-I players his whole life. “It’s what he’s used to,” Davis Jr., says. “He just didn’t have the refs and fans.”
Davis has shone in early competition. He scored 32 points in his collegiate debut against Western Michigan and had 42 against Loyola (MD) a couple weeks later, setting a Detroit freshman record. He’s also showed a well-rounded game, with seven assists and seven rebounds in a win over Eastern Michigan.
Detroit is a program in the midst of a rebuild. Davis, who was hired in June after the Titans went through back-to-back eight win seasons, signed 13 players in August, which Davis contends is the latest in college basketball history when that many players have been signed. Only three guys returned from last season. A new system is in play. The results so far, at 3–7, aren’t great.
But they have a legitimate star, one crafted for the college game. While Davis admits his son needs to get stronger, he knows that his kid’s shooting prowess will never go away. “He’s been doing it for the last six years,” he says.
The Davis family affair at Detroit comes with challenges. Davis had never coached his son before this season. He admits that he sometimes has to take a step back and not think about the family aspect. “I always think, if he wasn’t my son, who would I be giving the ball to?” Davis is harder on Antoine than Davis Jr. is. “You don’t want two people in the same house being hard on you,” Davis Jr., says. “I have to be the big brother.”
And while a tournament bid might seem out of the question this season, Antoine would gladly trade away some of the points he’s scoring for a chance at the Big Dance. He already admits that averaging nearly 30 points a game wasn’t in the plan—what’s lopping off a few more? “Whatever it takes,” he says.
As for the Davis trio in Detroit, it’s just getting started. They love being in close proximity to each other all the time. And you can be assured that when you look back at the ranking of leading scorers, Antoine Davis will be near the top—jacking up threes, just like he did in the quiet of the gym back in Houston.