Darron Cummings/Associated Press
The most unguardable freshman in college basketball doesn’t play for Duke, Kentucky, Kansas or any other blue-blood program—although he was born in Bloomington, Indiana, while his father was the head coach of the Hoosiers. He is a completely different player than Zion Williamson, and he isn’t as big as RJ Barrett, but he’s scoring even more than either of the Blue Devils’ surefire 2019 lottery picks.
That first-year phenom is Antoine Davis, and he is averaging 27.2 points per game at Detroit Mercy.
Davis has scored at least 17 points in each of his 18 games played. He had 32 in the season opener against Western Michigan—his first of eight times (and counting) putting up at least 30. Two weeks later, he shot 10-of-14 from three-point range en route to 42 points against Loyola-Maryland. Earlier this month, he again made 10 triples in a single contest, scoring a career-high 48 in a statement win over Wright State.
But he (somehow?) isn’t a projected first-round draft pick, and he plays for a sub-.500 team, so he almost never shows up on SportsCenter highlight reels or in the various debates about the best players in the country.
He’s used to dominating in obscurity, though.
According to a November story by The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn, the homeschooled hooper had been working out with John Lucas Jr. since he was 14 years old, taking 1,000 to 5,000 shots every day for years. And according to a December story by Sports Illustrated‘s Jeremy Fuchs, he routinely held his own against the likes of Justise Winslow and Justin Jackson and frequently practiced against D-I players at Texas Southern.
He averaged 23 points per game as a junior in the Homeschool Christian Youth Association in Houston. He also played on the Nike EYBL Tour. But the 6’1″ scoring guard who maybe weighed 150 pounds soaking wet didn’t get much attention from the recruiting services—not much unlike a certain all-time great from Davidson who Davis is about to surpass in the NCAA record books.
Both Rivals and 247Sports rated him as a 3-star guy. The latter service placed him at No. 312* nationally in its composite ranking. According to 247Sports, not one of the 75 major-conference programs extended Davis an offer.
*That’s a very low ranking as far as potential impact freshmen are concerned, but it has been a lucky number in recent years. Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver was No. 312 in the 2017 rankings, and Jordan Bohannon has been Iowa’s starting point guard in all three years since getting slotted there in 2016.
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson knew Davis had the potential to be something special, though.
When Davis signed with the Cougars in November 2017, Sampson said: “I am really excited about Antoine Davis. He comes from a basketball background. He is the best shooter I have seen in this state since I have been at Houston, but he is more than just a shooter. Antoine is a self-made player. He is a good ball-handler and a good passer.”
In May 2018, however, Davis decided he wanted to stay with his dad and play for Texas Southern. And in early June when Mike Davis left TSU to take the job at Detroit, Antoine followed him to Michigan to help clean up a mess.
After back-to-back eight-win seasons under Bacari Alexander, the Titans were a disaster. They ranked outside the top 300 on KenPom.com in both seasons before the Davis family came to the rescue. Plus, they lost seven of the eight guys who averaged at least 4.0 points per game in 2017-18, so major changes needed to be made.
Rather than find seven new guys to average at least four points per game, Antoine Davis has stepped in to average nearly seven times that amount by himself.
Detroit still only has eight wins, but that’s a product of Mike Davis’ aggressive approach to nonconference scheduling. Texas Southern always had a brutal November and December on his watch, and he found a new school willing to do the same. Detroit played road games against Butler, Xavier, Temple, Dayton and Toledo and didn’t come close to winning any of them.
The strategy forced the Titans to grow up in a hurry, though, and they are 5-2 in Horizon League play and tied for second place in the conference standings. Northern Kentucky is the clear front-runner to win the conference, but the favorite has almost never won the Horizon League tournament in recent years. So there’s a good chance that Mike Davis will lead his fourth different school to the NCAA tournament and that Antoine will be the leader of a dangerous No. 15 or No. 16 seed.
Even if the Titans don’t get a chance to bust brackets, their scoring machine is well on his way toward shattering a freshman record set by none other than Stephen Curry.
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Curry made 122 three-pointers in his first season at Davidson. Trae Young (118) almost surpassed that mark last season, but Chef Steph is still No. 1 in the record books—for a few more weeks, anyway.
Davis is averaging a Marshall Henderson-like 11.7 three-point attempts per game, but he is converting on 41 percent of those shots. (Prior to a 1-of-8 dud against Oakland this past weekend, those numbers were 11.9 and 42.1, respectively.) He has already made 91 threes this season, and with a minimum of 12 games yet to be played, he is on pace for 148 triples.
He should pass Curry on Valentine’s Day—more than a month before the 2019 NCAA tournament begins.
If Detroit does win the Horizon League tournament and plays one game in the NCAA tournament, that would be 15 more games, changing his projection to 162.8 made three-pointers. Let’s call that 163, which would be one more than Curry’s all-time record of 162 made three-pointers in a single season.
How is the national media not talking about this guy on a nightly basis?
Dating back to the 2002-03 season, only three freshmen have averaged at least 25 points per game. (They all played in the Big 12, oddly enough.) Trae Young put up 27.4 points per game last year at Oklahoma. Michael Beasley averaged 26.2 for Kansas State in 2007-08. And Kevin Durant went for 25.8 per night with Texas in 2006-07.
Each of those three former collegiate sensations parlayed their point-heavy freshman seasons into a top-five pick in the subsequent NBA draft, but Davis is curiously absent from the internet’s seemingly infinite sea of mock drafts and big boards.
It’s time to start paying attention, guys.
Even if you don’t have an ESPN+ subscription, you’ll be able to catch Davis on Watch ESPN on three out of four Saturdays in February: vs. Youngstown State on the 2nd, at Green Bay on the 16th and at Oakland on the 23rd.
If you can only pick one, go with the Green Bay game. He had 29 in the first win over the Phoenix, and they play at one of the fastest tempos in the nation, which should mean even more shots for Davis than his usual allotment of 22.6 per game. But we would strongly advise watching all three with a big bowl of popcorn at the ready, because this young man is as entertaining as they come.
Kerry Miller covers men’s college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.