What are the odds that the NCAA and the NBA’s scoring records would fall within a month? Nothing lasts forever, but the fact that it took a global pandemic and the NCAA granting athletes an extra year of eligibility for Detroit Mercy guard Antoine Davis to come within 26 points of eclipsing the NCAA’s all-time scoring record speaks to the absurdity of Pistol Pete Maravich’s legacy.
It took incredible longevity for LeBron James to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Davis’ shot at Maravich required luck, opportunity, perfect health, and ideal conditions to carry an offense for four years — and Davis’ dad being the coach.
Maravich’s NCAA scoring record has been one of basketball’s most impenetrable barriers since he seemingly popped out of a time machine with a skillset from the early 2000s and plopped down at LSU in 1967. If Maravich had been born five years later and arrived on campus in 1972 when the NCAA granted eligibility to all freshmen in team sports, he likely could have tacked on at least another 1,200 onto his 3,667 career points.
Still, in only three years, Maravich accomplished what Davis and countless others before him have only been able to do in four or five. The closest any player has come to reaching Maravich’s awe-inspiring spot on the scoring mountaintop in the last 30 years was Campbell’s Chris Clemons, who was more than 400 points short when his career concluded in 2019.
Maravich was a 6-foot-5 calligraphy artist on the floor, whipping genius-level passes and executing complex dribble move combinations that left opponents confounded. Davis is a different type of scorer. At 6-foot-1, he’s laser accurate on the perimeter off the dribble and can clear his way to the lane when defenders overcommit.
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More than half of Davis’ field goal attempts come from behind the arc, which didn’t exist on college floors until more than a decade after Maravich exhausted his eligibility. In January, Davis became the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-time 3-point field goals.
For Davis, his pursuit of this milestone was nearly thwarted multiple times. After his junior year, Davis announced his intention to transfer to a major program to gain more exposure and take advantage of NIL opportunities. After receiving interest from Power 5 programs, Davis opted to return.
But when the season began, his odds of catching Maravich were slim. Whether Davis stat padded to get here is up for debate another day. For what it’s worth, he’s eighth in the nation in minutes played, but it still took him averaging 28.4 points a contest, while appearing in all 32 games this season and shooting a career-high 42 percent from deep, to get within striking distance. He got revved enough to light up Purdue Fort Wayne for 38 points on Tuesday night in a win to get within his season average of Maravich in what could be his college denouement.
Davis’ shot at history will arrive on Thursday night when Detroit Mercy is slated for a matchup against the Horizon League Conference Tournament’s No. 1 seed Youngstown State. Barring an upset, that will serve as the end of Detroit Mercy’s season. In two games this season against Youngstown State, Davis has generated 23.5 points on average, but that’s partially due to his 5-of-18 shooting in his first matchup of the season against the Penguins.
This time, all eyeballs and the associated pressure are trained on him. As both programs pursue the league’s automatic bid, Davis will have to balance a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with playing team ball against an opponent possibly intent on taking him out of the game. Youngstown isn’t stupid. They know the stakes for Davis too.
If Davis doesn’t score at least 26 points and Detroit Mercy loses, it could be a letdown of epic proportions and it may be decades before another player has an opportunity to make a run at Pistol Pete’s summit.
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