An Unheralded Player May Break College Basketball’s Scoring Record

It is a record so sturdy that it has not been threatened for more than half a century. Pete Maravich, Louisiana State’s shooting — and shooting and shooting — guard, poured in 3,667 points in his college career from 1967 to 1970, the most in men’s Division I history.

Now, an unheralded player, Antoine Davis, at an unheralded school, Detroit Mercy, may break the record. But if he does, his mark will come with some caveats.

The closest any player came to Maravich before this season was the swingman Freeman Williams, with a not especially close 3,249 points at Portland State in the 1970s. But with 38 points on Tuesday against Purdue Fort Wayne in the Horizon League tournament, Davis has 3,642, just 25 short of Maravich’s record with at least one game to play.

Next up for eighth-seeded Detroit Mercy is a visit to top-seeded Youngstown State on Thursday night. Youngstown will be a comfortable favorite, so it may be the last chance for Davis to get the 26 points he needs to break the record. Detroit Mercy has a losing record and is ranked around No. 200 in most computer rankings, so the team is not a candidate for the N.C.A.A. or other postseason tournaments. (Postseason games count for total statistics in college, unlike in most professional sports.)

Davis, a 6-foot-1 guard, has scored in bunches throughout his college career, averaging more than 23 points a game every season for a cumulative 25.5 points a game. But Maravich averaged a scarcely credible 44.2 points a game. So how is Davis closing in on his record?

To start with, because of various exemptions and rules changes prompted by the pandemic, Davis was able to play five full seasons at Detroit Mercy for a total of 143 games so far. These rules have led to numerous long collegiate careers: The top 40 players in college history in career games all played during the pandemic era.

Maravich was further limited by playing in an era when freshmen weren’t eligible, giving him only three seasons to amass his impressive total. Maravich played in only 83 games, less than 60 percent of Davis’s total.

Moreover, Davis has picked up 584 extra points on 3-pointers, a shot unavailable to Pistol Pete, who got only 2 points a basket no matter how long his jumper. And Maravich loved long shots. In truth, he loved to shoot from anywhere, taking 3,166 shots in his career to Davis’s 2,961. Still, Maravich outshot Davis, .438 to .409.

Say this for Davis though. It is not as if many other college players are closing in on Maravich’s record. The next best active player, Taevion Kinsey of Marshall, has 2,623 points, more than 1,000 behind Davis. A word should also be said about the modern college game, which is indisputably faster, more athletic and better defended than the game of the 1960s.

One similarity: Both players played for their father. Maravich was coached by Press Maravich at L.S.U., while Davis is coached by Mike Davis at Detroit Mercy. Neither father seems to have told his son to cut back on his shooting.

In contrast, there were few questions when LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record in the N.B.A. this year, given that he played fewer games and required fewer shots to pass Abdul-Jabbar.

After L.S.U., Maravich was drafted third overall and went on to a 10-year career in the N.B.A. with five All-Star selections and a scoring average of 24.2 points a game.

Davis, already 24 because of his extended college stay, is unlikely to have a similar pro career. He is not projected to be drafted, and the G League or Europe is a more likely destination. This has also contributed to his huge point total, because if he were a better pro prospect, he might have left school before his eligibility expired. (Maravich stayed through his own senior year because leaving early wasn’t an option at the time.)

So while Davis is not likely to join Maravich in the Basketball Hall of Fame, if he can score 26 points on Thursday, he will put his name in the college record books one spot above one of the greatest scorers in basketball history.

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