'Hard to turn that down': NIL money played big role in Antoine Davis' decision to leave Detroit Mercy

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Antoine Davis' surprising decision to transfer from Detroit Mercy, where he was coached by his father for four years, was made, at least in part, because of the opportunities that could potentially be afforded to him by the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) regulations, Mike Davis told The News.

Mike Davis said there's a good chance Antoine Davis could earn well into the six figures on an NIL deal at a school more high-profile than Detroit Mercy, where there are no current sponsorship deals for players.

Since Antoine Davis made his announcement Thursday, he has heard directly from no fewer than 17 schools, and indirectly, through his dad, from several others. Among the schools known to already have made contact: Alabama, Auburn, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Hofstra, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and South Carolina. Antoine hasn't yet scheduled any official visits.

Antoine Davis and Mike Davis.

"If I wasn't his coach, I would tell him to do exactly what he did," Mike Davis told The News on Saturday. "You have a chance to make a half-million to a million dollars in NIL, and you put that money in the bank and you don't spend it ... let it sit for 10 years, that's pretty impressive.

"It's hard to turn that down."

Antoine Davis, 23, played four seasons for the Titans, and became the program's all-time leading scorer this past season. With a fifth season afforded by the COVID-19 pandemic, he'll have a chance to challenge for the NCAA's all-time Division I scoring record.

He was first-team all-Horizon League all four years, and was co-league player of the year this past season.

For several weeks, Mike Davis believed Antoine would return to Detroit Mercy for his final season, and that was Antoine's thought, too — until recently. There was the NIL factor, but also the desire to test his game at the highest levels, as well as a chance to play in an exciting environment that simply isn't part of the equation at Calihan Hall.

Antoine Davis' decision caught the college hoops world by surprise, and, yes, that includes his own dad.

"You know, it just all came out of nowhere, to be honest with you," Mike Davis said. "I'm kind of at a loss for words, to be honest with you."

Antoine Davis, Mike said, "is both happy and sad."

And how about dad?

"I guess it's about 60-40," Mike Davis said, leaning sad.

Coincidentally, the day of Antoine Davis' announcement, the Davis family went out to a birthday dinner. It wasn't awkward, Mike said, other than Antoine's cell phone going off every few moments.

Mike Davis' phone has been going off, too, with inquiries from interested coaches across the country.

"Probably 25 to 30," Mike Davis said. "Don't know how they get your number, but they get it."

Antoine Davis' departure leaves a major void at Detroit Mercy, where he's averaged between 26.1 and 23.9 points every year, as one of the nation's top 3-point shooters. There are several notable returners, including forward Madut Akec, who averaged 12.7 points (second to Davis on the team) and seven rebounds, guards Kevin McAdoo and DJ Harvey, and swingman Noah Waterman.

But it's going to take new recruits, ideally transfers, to replace all that scoring for the Titans, who were 26-26 the last two seasons after going 19-43 in Davis' first two seasons — after he was a late hire and got a slow start on the recruiting trail for Year 1, and struggled to recruit for Year 2 with the program on probation for academic issues that predated the entire staff and roster.

Davis still has three years left on his contract, so there's still time to get Detroit Mercy to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. At Davis' previous three stops, he took each to the NCAA Tournament, with nine appearances over 18 seasons. He still plans to get the Titans there, though it'll be bittersweet.

"He wanted to get to the NCAA Tournament so bad. He had a great career here," Mike Davis said. "It's just been a big shock. I'm his dad and I'm his coach, so it's just a fine line. ... He had told me he didn't want to play for anybody but me. ... But when the NIL thing arose and popped up, he was like, 'Wow.'

"You know, it's just crazy."

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984