Antoine Davis' quest for more than just the all-time scoring record

Courtesy Detroit Mercy Athletics Communications

IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, Antoine Davis would look up videos of Pete "Pistol Pete" Maravich's dribbling drills on YouTube. He'd watch the Basketball Hall of Famer dribble two basketballs between his legs, around his back and through his legs again. Then he'd work with his father, Mike Davis, to try to mimic the NCAA's all-time scoring leader (3,667 points in three years at LSU).

But Davis -- who now plays for his father at Detroit Mercy -- never imagined he'd one day have a chance to sit one spot behind Pistol Pete on the career scoring charts. Or, if something wild happens over the next three months, perhaps even pass him.

"I tell people all the time, if you were to tell me I was going to do something like this in middle school or even elementary school, maybe even high school, I would've thought you were crazy because being on the [NCAA all-time scoring list] like that and with names like that, it's like something I just never really even thought could happen, and for it to happen, it's an unreal thing," Davis, who is now the Horizon League's all-time scoring leader, told ESPN.

"My name is going to be in this forever. When I get older and have kids, this is something I could tell my kids about. So this is something really special."

The fifth-year player will enter his matchup at Cincinnati (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+) ranked 10th all time in Division I history with 3,031 career points. Last week, he passed former Cincinnati star Oscar Robertson (2,973 points in three years), one of the greatest players in NBA history, when he scored 36 points in his team's 82-80 overtime road loss against the Charlotte Flyers. Davis is also third all time with 481 3-pointers made in his career.

Averaging 24.3 PPG and connecting on 41% of his 3-point attempts this season, Davis will finish second all time behind Maravich if he continues to score at this pace for the duration of the regular season. He would need to average 34.0 PPG for the next 19 regular-season games to catch Maravich. Even if that doesn't happen, he'll end his collegiate career ranked alongside mythical figures within the sport: Robertson, Danny Manning, Larry Bird to name a few.

"It's really special, especially for my dad's generation and that generation of people to see," Davis said. "They probably never would have thought somebody would even come close to it or be at that standard that Pistol Pete is at. That's something special to even think about."

But Davis is also the face of a complex era for records in men's college basketball. With the NCAA granting every player who competed during the 2019-20 season -- which was impacted by COVID-19 -- an additional year, more top marks could fall and other legends could get passed.

Davis said he's aware of the advantage a fifth year has given him. But it's not fair to negate or invalidate his achievement.

Danny Manning, the former Kansas star and NBA standout, scored 2,951 points (13th all time) in 147 games in his four-year college career. Davis, who has played in 123 college basketball games, won't match Manning's tally even if the Titans make a run to the Horizon League tournament title game. Freeman Williams, who is No. 2 all time behind Maravich, finished with 2,926 field goal attempts. Davis, who hasn't ever played in the NCAA tournament, currently has 2,505 field goal attempts. He's on pace to pass Williams (3,249 career points), who didn't play with a 3-point line during his career at Portland State in the 1970s, with significantly fewer shots.

Yet, Davis is the only fifth-year player in the top 20 of that records list. He's averaging 20.4 field goal attempts per game. Five of the nine players ahead of him on the all-time scoring list, however, had more attempts per game in their careers than he does.

"The [fifth year] helps a lot," Davis said. "I was looking at [Maravich's] stats, and my dad was looking at [Maravich's] stats from his college years, and there wasn't a year that he didn't shoot 35-plus shots per game in his three years there. I take a lot of shots, but I don't take 35 shots per game. ... These are all my points with no extra games being played [in the NCAA tournament], which is something that is kind of unheard of."

He understands the history of the game, though. And he respects the names next to his on the all-time list, and the great players he's chasing.

"I mean, it's incredible," he said. "I don't take anything away from Pistol Pete. He's a great scorer. And my dad is always telling me how great of a scorer he was. ... I've heard so much about Pistol Pete. I've always known about him."

Davis' climb up the scoring charts, however, has masked his true ambition: leading Detroit Mercy to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 and just the second time in the past 24 years.

Last summer, he even entered the transfer portal. He'd dreamed of competing in a major conference for the first time in his career and testing his talent against players at that level. And he had offers from multiple schools, including Maryland, BYU, Kansas State and Georgetown.

But Davis chose to return to Detroit Mercy, he said, because he wanted to make his campus and community smile at the end of the season.

"I just felt like it wouldn't have felt right playing somewhere else or ending my career somewhere at a big school, even though that's what I really wanted to do," he said. "I feel like I made the right decision. I love the team that we have. I love this university so much. They've treated me so well since the first day I stepped on campus."

Davis said he has enjoyed moving up college basketball's all-time scoring list. With every shot, his pursuit of history persists, and he continues to rise. He has valued those experiences. But they are not his focus. He'd choose the NCAA tournament even if it meant he had to give up his record.

"I'd pick my team in the NCAA tournament," Davis said. "That's something I've always wanted to be a part of: be in the NCAA tournament. When my dad was [head coach] at Texas Southern [from 2012 to 2018], they ran [the SWAC] conference and they always went to the NCAA tournament and I always got to go with them. I experienced it from a spectator standpoint. I really want to be a part of something like that. If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose doing it with this team that we have and going to the tournament instead of just breaking the scoring record."