Antoine Davis’ heart has always been in Detroit. Eventually, so was the NIL money. | Basketball

DETROIT — Speaking to men’s basketball coaches in the Horizon League, comments about Antoine Davis run the gamut. They enjoyed watching the dynamic shooter do his thing, but they also counted the minutes until he left Detroit Mercy. After all, you are trying to keep it.

In April, they appeared to get their wish when Davis, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer last season, shockingly announced on social media that he was being traded. He wanted to expand his game into a bigger program, and he also wanted money for name, image and likeness (NIL).

Then, in May, he made an equally surprising decision: He was returning to Detroit Mercy, after all, passing up opportunities at Kansas State and BYU, among others. The Horizon League will get a fifth and final year from The Antoine Davis Show, as it heads to the all-time top five in Division I.

“These fans want to see Detroit Mercy win, and I want to win for the fans, not just me and my teammates,” Davis said recently, before a noon shootout in a stuffy Calihan Hall. “It would be something for them to look forward to, to be so happy.

“Detroit haven’t seen a win in a while, so it would be something special for them and for me.”

It has now been a decade since Detroit Mercy last played in the NCAA Tournament, three coaches ago.

Mike Davis, Antoine’s father, is entering his fifth season as head coach, and he has never spent more than five years at any of his previous three stages (Indiana, UAB, Texas Southern) without participate in the NCAA Tournament. He thought he would have already made the NCAA Tournament when he took over the Detroit Mercy job, taking over from Bacari Alexander, who was fired after two years. But in Year 1, they were way behind in recruiting when they accepted the job. Year 2, they were banned from the NCAA Tournament due to academic issues prior to all coaches and players on the roster. Year 3, COVID-19. And Year 4, no more COVID, costing Detroit Mercy a handful of home games — and, therefore, a top-four seed in the Horizon League tournament, which the way the event is formatted , is essential to get the only offer in the league.

Then came the news of Davis’ decision to transfer, and Year 5 didn’t look too hot either.

This is no longer the case.

“It was good, good for us,” Mike Davis said of Antoine’s decision – which they both swear was not influenced by Mike. “He started here and he had to finish here. He has to get into the tournament (NCAA).”

help Antoine, by informing his father of his decision to return in mid-May, after visits to Maryland, Georgetown, Kansas State and BYU, the latter two being his last picks in addition to Detroit Mercy among dozens of interested schools (the pressure from the fans became so intense that he had to cut his Twitter for a while): “He didn’t tell me to stay, but he didn’t tell me to go. He just wanted me to be in the best position. … I just told him that I wanted to stay, I didn’t want to finish my career somewhere else. He was really happy about that. Very happy.”

Davis, 23, had a number of things that made him leave, and just as much convinced him to stay.

In a bigger, more visible program, of course, he could have increased his stock enough to spark some interest in the NBA draft, which he will eventually enter in 2023 – after toying with the idea of ​​leaving early, but not as much this year as in previous years.

But in Detroit, he could have continued to build on a legacy that includes four league scoring championships, four All-League First Team honors and a 2022 Co-Horizon League Player of the Year award. , despite two Achilles injuries. His 2,734 career points rank 22nd all-time, and with another strong injury-free 2022-23, there’s a chance for Davis to crack the top five, ahead of names like Larry Bird. , Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson. The only player out of reach is No. 1 Pete Maravich.

“Yeah, I feel like it would have taken a little bit off me not being here,” Davis said of his Detroit Mercy legacy. “I’m not going to say it would have been forgotten, but at the same time it would have been different.”

(Davis was given a fifth year due to COVID, but due to COVID cancellations he is still expected to finish his career with fewer games than some players currently ahead of him on the all-time scoring list.)

So what was the tipping point to stay?

ZERO money. How’s that for honesty?

When Davis decided to transfer, Mike Davis told The News that the opportunity to win a six-figure NIL contract with schools far more connected than Detroit Mercy (which is struggling enough just to find housing for its athletes, not to mention the extra money) was a major, if not determining, factor. So when an NIL deal was given to Antoine at Detroit Mercy, it made the decision to come back much easier.

Davis had a few small deals with some local Detroit businesses, but the opportunity for a bigger salary came from Chinese basketball manufacturer GlowBalls, which counts former NBA player Stephon Marbury among its endorsers. The balls, of course, glow in the colors of the rainbow, and Davis’ custom ball features his trademark logo, a silhouette of him shooting, along with his number 0. The balls sell for 75 $ and they sold for 75 or 80 the first week. – with sure interest to pick up in season, when he makes another 3 points from the Lodge. Some 5,000 basketballs were made in Davis’ first run. Davis will receive a percentage of ball sales and other sales as well; a merchandising line is also in the works.

And Davis plans to split the profits with all of his Detroit Mercy teammates.

“I had nothing, and for me, to average the points that I averaged (24.6 for his career), I felt like I needed some of it,” said Davis said of the NIL deal.

“And I just wanted to give back to my teammates, because most of them probably don’t have NIL contracts.

“Everyone benefits.”

Said Mike Davis, 61, whose extensive ties to basketball contacts contributed to the NIL deal, struck with a sports agency in Texas: “You have to share with the team, and I hope that this money can help them find a nice apartment, money for food, money for anything.”

Money isn’t much of an issue for Antoine, whose father has done well over the years – the financial terms of his contract with privateer Detroit Mercy are unknown, but he has three years left on the contract. Antoine lives comfortably in an apartment in the Campus Martius neighborhood, where he enjoys his Iggy’s Eggies, Mister Dips, Sweetwater Tavern and a whole host of other Detroit staples via – what else – DoorDash.

Davis also loves the people of Detroit, that Midwestern charm appealing to a kid who spent the first eight years of his life in Bloomington, Indiana, when dad was first assistant at Indiana and then head coach.

Mike Davis guided Indiana to four NCAA tournaments in six years as head coach, including a second-place finish nationally, before moving on to UAB and eventually Texas Southern.

During his first 18 years as a head coach, Mike Davis appeared in nine NCAA tournaments but did not go to Detroit. Antoine’s return helps the cause for 2022-23, of course, and, at least in part, has helped land a pair of transfer commitments – guard Jayden Stone from Grand Canyon and striker Damezi Anderson from Loyola. -Chicago – as well as freshman Isaiah Jones of Speights Academy in Florida. Last fall, Detroit Mercy signed top 200 prospect guard Sonny Johnson, who had offers from Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska. Guard Kevin McAdoo is expected back, among others.

Among the players leaving Detroit Mercy: Noah Waterman, who just signed up for BYU (which was one of Davis’ four official visits, and likely where he would have been had he not returned to Detroit; he was particularly intrigued through the mountains and was learning to snowboard); DJ Harvey, who entered the NBA draft and went undrafted; and Madut Akec, who left to pursue a professional career.

The 2022-23 roster certainly remains a work in progress, but Antoine has provided some serious stability, for Dad and Detroit — as well as his and his teammates’ bank accounts.

“I really love Detroit, even though I walked into the portal. I didn’t want to end my career anywhere else,” said Antoine, who followed his father to Detroit and then set the 3-point freshman record held by Steph Curry. “I really couldn’t see myself ending my career anywhere but here.

“It was the right decision to come back. I’m happy with the decision.”

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