Detroit Mercy phenom sets sights on Horizon League tourney, school all-time record next season

DETROIT — It seems that each new era brings a different approach to basketball.

In the early days of the sport, a slower, deliberate pace with a set shot was the way teams operated. Gradually, the tempo increased as the jump shot came into vogue. Next, teams sought out tall centers who could park themselves near the hoop for a short-range basket. Once dunks became part of players’ skill sets, those added excitement to the game.

These days, long-range three-point shots are in the spotlight. Once dismissed by purists as a novelty from the American Basketball Association, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association adopted it as a vital ingredient of the game. Lately, teams with a good outside shooter have been using the approach to their advantage, and that’s how the University of Detroit Mercy’s men’s team has become competitive in the Horizon League this season, with several players who can launch treys.

“You just have to go with what can get a lot of points for you,” head coach Mike Davis said.

“It’s not necessarily something we planned on,” said his son, freshman guard Antoine Davis. “It’s just something — it’s one thing that people are really good at doing, other than myself, and my dad lets them shoot the threes they take, because he knows that they can make them.”

By the time the regular season concluded on Saturday, the Titans (11-19, 8-10 Horizon League) nailed 279 triples this winter, tying a school single-game record of 17 in a victory over Loyola Maryland on Dec. 19.

The younger Davis was even more potent beyond the three-point stripe, with 128 in 20 games, making 38.5 percent of his attempts. When he nailed four three-pointers against Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis (IUPUI) on Feb. 28, he became the NCAA’s record-holder for most triples made by a freshman, surpassing Stephen Curry, who made 122 for Davidson in 2006-07.

Curry, of course, has gone on to become one of the NBA’s marquee all-stars — a two-time league MVP and six-time all-star who’s helped the Golden State Warriors win three NBA championships this decade.

Being meticulous about shooting with good form has helped University of Detroit Mercy freshman Antoine Davis make 128 3-pointers this winter – the most ever by a freshman.

Davis couldn’t decide which was a bigger feat: being the new record-holder, or breaking a mark set by a player that many look up to — including Davis.

“I just love the fact that (Curry’s) a really good point guard — not only the shooting aspect of the game – but defensively he really knows what he’s doing and tells people where to go; I just admire that,” Davis said.

Against the University of Illinois-Chicago in the March 2 home finale, Davis excited the crowd with three more. He banked in his first while being fouled, sinking the ensuing free throw for a rare four-point play that tied the game at 17. Later in the first half, Davis hit another while fading toward the sideline to put the Titans up 36-34. He saved his longest for the second half, hitting from just beyond Detroit Mercy’s center-court logo for a 45-41 lead.

Interestingly enough, Davis said he doesn’t have a go-to shot.

“I wish I had a favorite spot to go there and shoot it every time, but it’s just not how the defense that guards me works out,” he explained.

Not only that, Davis said he hasn’t participated in any staged three-point shot contests, and he doesn’t really even practice the long-range shots during Titan workouts.

“It’s just a lot of work,” he said. “No days off, just a lot of being in the gym working on my shot every day. To be honest, I don’t even shoot threes like that — I work on my form, shooting a bunch of form shots, not even threes.”

Davis — who also holds freshman team records for points in a game (48) and total points (752) — trails only Rashad Phillips for the overall team record of 136 triples in a season, set in 2000-01. Whether he breaks that mark this year depends on how long of a run the Titans can make in the Horizon League tournament, which begins Wednesday.

If Phillips’ record doesn’t fall this year, coach Davis thinks his son can get it next year, when he’s surrounded by a different mix of players who could take some defensive pressure off him.

“When we get some new guys in here that can shoot the ball and make plays, he’ll score more threes next year than this year, with less threes taken. It will be 45, 50 percent. I’m thinking he’ll be at 140, 150 threes made next year,” coach Davis said. “He’ll be 10 times better next year than he was this year.”

“I could agree with that, because this summer’s (training is) going to be really, really intense for me,” the freshman sensation said. “I’m going to be working really hard to even make that possible.”