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Watching NBA Draft, Detroit's Antoine Davis allows himself to dream: 'That could be me one day'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Antoine Davis watched the NBA Draft on Wednesday night. He watches it every year.

These days, given he's a junior in college who's played against some of the best in the country, he's seeing more and more of his friends get drafted, like Michigan State's Cassius Winston.

And if he squints really hard, he can also see himself.

Antoine Davis

"Every year I watch the draft, I get excited," said Davis, Detroit Mercy's star point guard. "Especially knowing that could be me one day.

"It motivates me to just keep working and do what I do."

What Davis, 22, does is a lot — mostly lighting up the scoreboard. As a freshman, he was third in the nation at 26.1 points, and broke Steph Curry's freshman 3-point record. As a sophomore, he was fourth in the nation at 24.3 points. In just two seasons, Davis' 1,513 points already are 13th in program history, and his 233 made 3-pointers are third.

No wonder he's twice considered leaving school early — even with his dad, Mike, as head coach — to test his luck in the NBA.

But he hasn't pulled the trigger yet. He believes he's ready skill-wise, but not mentally.

"There have been opportunities for me that I think I could've taken, but I just felt like I wasn't there yet," Davis said. "I'm trying to grow up a little more to the point where I feel like I'm ready for the next step."

More: Michigan State will play Detroit Mercy in basketball for first time since 2001

Specifically, Davis cites his leadership and vocal skills.

He grew up a shy and quiet kid, he admits and his dad confirms, and that's fine — but it doesn't necessarily translate into an effective point guard.

Coaches and teammates — many who have been taken aback when Davis, out of nowhere, gets in their grill — have seen the growth, especially in recent practices ahead of the team's season-opening multi-team event (MTE) at Kentucky next week. The Titans also play Atlantic-10 favorite Richmond there.

"Him growing up ... he's always been like that person that listens and does what you tell them, and don't talk back," Mike Davis said. "Now he has to be that leader like we've been leading him.

"Being quiet is good off the court, but not on the court.

"You can have an off-night in shooting, but you can't have an off-night in leading."

For months, Davis has been on several NBA Big Boards for the 2021 NBA Draft.

"You know, I get tickled just with people even talking about him being in the draft from where he came from as a basketball player," Mike Davis said. "It just shows you what hard work can really do."

Not being at a Power Five, of course, hurts Davis from the publicity standpoint, but Detroit Mercy can go a long way toward building his case if it has a decent year — as Mike Davis is expecting in Year 3 on the job. Davis has more shooters around him, including St. Bonaventure transfer Matt Johnson, who recently was given immediate eligibility, and Niagara transfer Noah Waterman, who is awaiting and expects immediate eligibility. Davis said Dwayne Rose Jr., Derrick Rose's nephew, has made progress. Bul Kuol is a Cal-Baptist transfer.

In his first two seasons at Detroit Mercy — which had 25 players drafted into the NBA from the 1950s-80s, but just two since, the last Ray McCallum Jr. in 2013 (36th, Sacramento Kings — it was the Antoine Davis Show every night. This year, more diversity is expected on offense — and thus, more wins, too, despite being picked ninth in the league. (Oakland is sixth; Wright State is first.)

Any uptick from there — Detroit Mercy has 19 wins total the last two years — and Davis knows his NBA prospects will be stronger.

"If we're winning," he said, "it's gonna have a better look for me, as well."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984