Eli Boettger | @boettger_eli | 08/04/20
Antoine Davis is making his statement.
As a homeschooled, 150-pound recruit with minimal Division-I interest, the Detroit star is taking the road less traveled towards becoming one of college basketball’s greatest scorers ever.
Though the story certainly seems appropriate for the Hollywood stage, Davis’ unique developmental process was actually built by design.
Antoine, a native of Houston, was homeschooled from seventh grade through his senior year of high school. During that span, Davis trained rigorously with John Lucas II, a former NBA vet turned coach. His workouts included heavy conditioning and tens of thousands of shot attempts to improve Davis’ growing skill set.
The father of the back-to-back Horizon League all-conference honoree is Mike Davis — Detroit’s head coach and the former frontman at Indiana, UAB and Texas Southern. Rather surprisingly, the elder Davis and younger Davis teamed in Detroit almost by coincidence. Mike was still coaching at Texas Southern when Antoine signed with his program in June 2018, but a vacancy in Detroit called Mike’s name and Antoine naturally followed.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Climbing up the scoring charts
Since making his debut in November 2018, Davis has consistently burned up box scores with stunning production and NBA-level shot-making. He’s cracked 40 points on three separate occasions, put up at least 30 another 12 times and — maybe even the most impressive stat — has never finished a game without scoring in double figures. Through his first 60 career games, Davis has tallied 1,513 points — good for 25.2 a night.
For some context on Davis’ remarkable scoring output, Campbell’s Chris Clemons — college basketball’s No. 3 all-time scorer — had 1,460 points through his 66 games as an underclassman. Creighton’s Doug McDermott, meanwhile, recorded 1,382 points over 74 outings by the time his sophomore year concluded.
Davis’ situation is ideal for a player aiming to break records. There are few players around the country, if any, that are as vital to a team’s offensive flow as the Titans are with Davis. The Horizon League’s ’18-19 rookie of the year has ranked in the top 10 nationally in both usage rate and shot rate in both of the past two seasons. Besides drilling contested jumpers, Davis also makes frequent trips to the free-throw line where he’s an 88.1 percent career shooter. He also somehow managed to record one of the highest assist rates in college basketball this past season despite accounting for over a third of his team’s scoring.
Catch all that?
Looking for help
The hope for the Titans this coming season is that Davis receives some help. Sure, it might not be as much fun for the viewer if Davis isn’t dropping 40 points a night, but any team this reliant on one player’s scoring ability will have trouble consistently winning games.
One of the notable offseason additions is Taurean Thompson, a former top-100 recruit who previously made stops at Seton Hall and Syracuse before transferring to Detroit this spring. Thompson hasn’t found his footing yet at the D-I level but a new home and non-power conference schedule could be the setting that the 6-11 forward needs to thrive as a senior.
Detroit also secured the services of Idaho grad transfer Marquell Fraser — a Canadian wing who started his career at VCU — and Bul Kuol, an Australian native who logged 18 minutes a night in a shortened campaign with Cal Baptist.
Other Davis sidekicks include Chris Brandon — a lockdown defender looking to expand his scoring potential — and Dwayne Rose Jr., who scored 7.3 points per game in his first season since coming over from Toledo.
Whether this is enough depth to turn around a program that’s won just 19 combined games the past two years is the big question. Either the supporting class underwhelms and Davis is once again the show or the new faces step up and Detroit climbs the Horizon League ladder. It will be must-watch TV regardless.
Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.
Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member and Rockin’ 25 voter.