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Antoine Davis column: One more year to make tourney dream come true

On April 1, 2021

BY ANTOINE DAVIS / VN STAFF WRITER

A bubbly, energetic, wide-eyed toddler wearing a replica Indiana jersey entertained die-hard Hoosier fans by scribbling “AJ” on scraps of paper in the corner of the gym in iconic Assembly Hall.

His father’s team had just returned from the 2002 championship game after losing to the Maryland Terrapins by 12.

This is not my memory. It is a story told to me over time.

This time of the year renews my desire to one day play in the NCAA tournament myself.

I have been to my share of tournaments, just not as a player.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to travel with my dad’s college teams.

But, oddly, this privilege makes it even harder to deal with the disappointment of not playing in a postseason tournament with my teams.

I am not above playing in the NIT or CBI.

All of these just mean more opportunities to continue playing with my team and having a chance at winning a championship.

As much as I envy the teams still playing in this year’s tournament, I am also just as thrilled for them.

I have friends and former teammates playing for it all.

The 2021 tournament is even sweeter because a year ago we endured a season without one.

No one knew what this season would even look like, so to make it here is a huge feat for college sports.

Our Titans team had its share of challenges like many others.

When we started this season, none of us knew what to expect and it took a toll.

Personally, I struggled with finding the bottom of the basket.

As a team, we struggled with injuries, illnesses and Covid protocols.

All these challenges affected our continuity and ability to practice as a unit.  

Plus, all us returners were trying to get to know the new guys and vice versa.

As we got more practices and games under our belts, we began to gel.

It just wasn’t enough.

We won nine of our 11 last games including a first-round conference game, the first tournament win since 2016 for the Titans.

Our run ended abruptly at Northern Kentucky on a last-second put-back.

The loss hurt, but for the first time in a long time I felt hopeful for our chances next season.

Head coach Mike Davis (my dad) captured my feelings.

“Once we got some practice time with all our guys, we’re able to get better,” he said. “I like the direction we are headed and with a few more pieces, we can get there.”

Watching the tournament from home in Detroit has made me hungrier and eager to continue working.

I want to be sure that I am doing my part to help us get where we are trying to go.

It won’t be easy because we Titans aren’t the only ones on the outside looking in. But if we all buy in, we can improve our chances for sure.

I am no longer that three-year-old who scribbled the only initials he could write at the time, but I am the young man who wants to experience bringing pride to his school by helping our team return to the tournament.

The writer is a member of the Detroit Titans basketball team, coached by his father, Mike Davis.

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