Tony Stanley was a highly sought after recruit from the Arlington, Virginia area. In his early years, he honed his skills growing up in Southwest Philadelphia before moving to Virginia to attend high school. While at Washington & Lee High School, Tony began receiving interest from several big schools across the country. By the time his senior year started, Tony held offers from Maryland, Temple, USC, Virginia Tech, George Washington, and of course, the University of Dayton. When it came to UD’s recruiting pitch, Tony was highly impressed with then assistant coach, Frank Smith.
I knew Oliver Purnell and Frank Smith for years because of their connections to the Virginia area. I also grew up playing basketball and tennis, yes tennis, against Coby Turner. I knew that Dayton was a program on the rise and Coach Smith was very persuasive in regards to immediate playing time. Nothing really stuck out from Dayton on my visits but I knew that Coby loved it there and again, the thought of playing immediate, important minutes was very intriguing. I knew that Coach Purnell was going to continue making Dayton a big time program and I wanted to help out right away. I didn’t commit to UD until my senior year.
On the court, Tony had a stellar senior season at Washington & Lee. He made the All-Met first team, which was a combination of the best players from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Stanley was also named Virginia’s AAA Northern Region Player of the Year. On the court, things couldn’t have been better, off the court, however, Tony struggled with his SAT scores and suddenly, the scholarship offers began to dissipate.
I took the SAT a few times and scored an 870. To qualify to play, you needed an 880. So basically, I was ONE question from qualifying. All the schools that wanted me before suddenly didn’t want me. But Dayton never faltered. Dayton said they would appeal the SAT scores and they had a really good feeling I would be allowed to play. I went to Dayton and pending appeal, would be part of a freshman class that included Mark Ashman, Matt Cooper, and Edwin Young. I was really excited to get to Dayton and show I could play ball.
In the summer of 1996, Tony arrived in the Gem City. Technically, he was not allowed to practice with the team until his appeal was approved, but he was permitted to play at area open gyms. In addition, even though he was not on scholarship yet, Stanley was free to enroll in summer school and start classes. Everything seemed to be working out for him until he was suddenly called out of class with some unfortunate news from the NCAA.
[title type=”special-h3-left” color=””]Freshman Year – The Team That Saved Dayton Basketball[/title]
They literally pulled me out of class to tell me that my appeal had been denied and that I had to leave campus immediately. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do or even what I could do. I was living off campus at the time and working at the YMCA earning some extra money. Coach Purnell never wavered. He reached out to some prep schools in the country and got me set up with Milford Academy in Connecticut. I was at Milford from January-April of 1997. While there, I would play basketball to stay sharp and then study my butt off for the SAT. I got the scores I needed and just like that, all the schools that wanted me before came back into the picture along with some new ones in Ohio State and Cincinnati. I never even gave them a second thought. Dayton stood by me from the beginning and were loyal and I was going to keep my word and go there.
Stanley was officially part of the 1997 recruiting class, along with local products Cain Doliboa and Yuanta Holland. Tony joined a Flyers team that went 13-14 the previous year and had talent and experience returning. Senior Ryan Perryman and Junior Coby Turner provided much needed leadership for what was a young and untested Flyer squad. Tony gelled with the team immediately and was named a starter by Coach Purnell shortly after arriving on campus. In an exhibition game against a Ukrainian national team, in his time in front of 12,000 Flyer fans, Tony showed the Faithful what to expect in the upcoming years by pouring in 30 points, a Dayton scoring record for a player’s first game.
I was so amped up for that game. Yeah, it was just an exhibition but I had to wait a long year to get on that court and show people what I could do. I don’t remember too much from the game because again, I was so amped up. I could have gone for 40 if I wanted to but Coach Purnell took me out of the game and probably didn’t want to start an international incident.
The Flyers lost the first game of the season to Murray State, 76-69, with Stanley contributing 16 points and 6 rebounds. One of the highlights of Tony’s freshman season was playing against future NBA lottery pick Wally Szczerbiak in what is still one of the most-talked about games in UD history. The Flyers lost a double-overtime thriller to Miami (OH) in the second contest of the season. Tony had a great game, scoring 24 points. But the talk of the town was all Wally World, who was on fire that night, notching 41 points after connecting on clutch shot after clutch shot.
That dude was one of the best players ever. The thing that made Wally so good was he could play any position. He could play the 2 or 3 position and shoot from outside. Or he could play the 4 and post up against a little guy. Everything he shot that night was going in. Pardon the cliche, but it was like he was throwing a ball into the ocean. During timeouts, Coach Purnell would scream at us to get in Wally’s face and to force him into a bad shot. I always took pride in my defense, so that was jarring to hear. I remember several times I would be all over Wally, basically fouling him, and he would let it fly and it would go in. There was nothing we could do. You have him going off plus Frierson going off (ed. note: Damon Frierson had 24 points that game) then you are probably going to lose. Yet, we still almost won! Wally nailed a shot to send the game into the second overtime and then just took over. It was incredible to watch.
Dayton posted a modest 8-5 non-conference record and entered A10 conference play looking to build on the prior season’s success. To say the 1997-98 conference record was a success would be an understatement. The Flyers won the A10 West Division, with an 11-5 record that included victories over Xavier, Temple, and Rhode Island. A significant part of UD’s success that year was the Flyers’ performance at UD Arena, where Stanley and Co. racked up a perfect 8-0 record in conference play.
We didn’t lose at home. That was our house and we weren’t going to let anyone come in there and push us around. The Flyer fans are the best in the country and they are loud and passionate. They carried us to some wins, especially in the big games against Xavier. That season was a success because of our home court advantage.
After winning their first A10 Tournament game against Fordham, Dayton lost to Rhode Island and had to await their fate to see if they would be earn a sport in a post-season tournament. With a 20-11 record, the Flyers were firmly on the bubble. Deep down, the team knew the NCAA Tournament was a long shot, but the NIT seemed to be a very good possibility. When the Flyers were left out of the NCAA field, it would not long before they learned they had made the NIT.
We knew we probably wouldn’t make the NCAA but we still kept our fingers crossed. When we didn’t make it, we were a little bummed. We weren’t sad for long as we made the NIT. We all went crazy at Coach Purnell’s house. We were jumping up and down and yelling really loud. I felt so happy for Perryman because this was his senior year and he was finally playing in a post season tournament. We wanted to send him out a winner.
Dayton got to play their first post-season game in eight seasons in the friendly confines of the Arena. Their opponent was the Blackbirds from Long Island University, which featured the nation’s leading scorer, Charles Jones. Dayton won the game in a shoot out, 95-92, and Jones lit up the scoreboard, ending the game with 45 points.
Jones was a chucker, plain and simple. He was good, no doubt, but he shot A LOT that game. I can’t remember, but it had to of been over 35 shots (ed. note: Jones was 18/38 from the field and 6/16 from beyond the arc). We knew he was going to score a lot because he lead the nation in scoring. We just had to make sure that his teammates didn’t beat us. I had a decent game but it was Perryman and Ashman that won us that game. Ryan had so many rebounds that game. He was everywhere.
Dayton went on to play Penn State at UD Arena in the next round and lost a close game, 77-74. Stanley put up 14 points while Ryan Perryman, in what would be his final game in a UD uniform, put up 21 points and 16 rebounds. But the team could not overcome the performance of Calvin Booth, who notched a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
[title type=”special-h3-left” color=””]Sophomore Year – The Forgotten Year[/title]
It was tough to lose that game and we all felt for Ryan. It was a great season, no doubt, but we felt that we let Ryan down. The end of the season always leaves a bad taste in your mouth because you play the “what if” game. Thankfully, I had more games to play in the following years. Everyone wants to go out a winner. I am sure Ryan was happy with that season and remembers it fondly.
Stanley gathered several honors after his freshman year, a season in which he started every game and averaged an impressive 13 points a game. Tony was selected to the A10’s All-Rookie Team and was also named one of the top 30 freshmen in all of college basketball. Despite the personal and team success, Tony was very critical of himself after the season and knew he had to improve his game.
There were some games I scored a lot of points just because of fast breaks. I knew if I wanted to become a better player, I needed to shoot better shots and also contribute more. I wanted to become a better overall player on both ends of the court so that summer going into sophomore year, I worked really hard on the defensive end.
Tony was aware that he would have to step up and become a visible leader on that team. With Ryan Perryman graduating, the team was losing a lot of scoring and rebounding. Hopes were high that Coby Turner would provide a further influx of offense, but those hopes were quickly dashed after Coby injured himself early in the year. Turner tried to play through the injuries but it was evident that he was not 100%, leaving Stanley and Mark Ashman to handle the bulk of the scoring load. Unfortunately for Tony and the rest of the team, the Flyers struggled throughout the year and found themselves on the losing end of a lot of close games.
If you look back at that year, we were in almost every game. We just couldn’t close the games out. (ed. note: Dayton lost by 4 to Northwestern, 1 to Toledo, 3 to Louisville, 2 to Cincinnati, 2 to George Washington, 2 to UMass, 4 to GW, and by 3 to Virginia Tech). We just didn’t really do well in the clutch. Coby hurting all year didn’t help because he tried to play through the pain but he wasn’t much help. Coby did have one last hurrah against Xavier where he went toe to toe with James Posey and scored 20 points and was the MVP of the game. The season might have been a bust, but any time you can beat Xavier it salvages a tiny bit of the year.
Dayton finished 11-17 and were once again left out of the post-season. Tony finished second on the team in scoring (15 ppg) and led the team in minutes played and steals. His emphasis on evolving into a better defensive player also showed up on the stat sheet, as Tony averaged just over two steals a game and was often tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top offensive threat.
Despite the on-court struggles that year, everything seemed to be progressing rapidly for Stanley. But as with any small school/community, rumors started to fly, suggesting that Tony was intent on transferring. There were even stories claiming payments to Tony by boosters allegedly putting hundred-dollar bills in pizza boxes that were then delivered to his apartment. The most tossed around story that season involved an altercation involving Stanley and another player, who were reputedly arrested for getting into a fight. Stanley supposedly kicked out a police car window while shouting, “Do you know who I am? I’m Tony Stanley!” Tony was less than amused by the reports.
[title type=”special-h3-left” color=””]Junior Year – The Promised Land[/title]
I’m not going to lie. There were a few times during that season where I didn’t know if Dayton was the right place for me. I was not seeing eye to eye with some of the coaching staff. We were losing and Coby was miserable, which in turn made me miserable. It was never to the point where I was sitting down with Purnell and telling him that I wanted to leave. I did sit down and tell him I wasn’t happy. Purnell assured me that everything would get better once the team got healthy. Purnell always had a way with words that made you feel better about the situation. As for being paid by boosters, that is hilarious. Purnell would NEVER allow that and he had his nose in everything. No one ever gave me any money and to the best of my knowledge, no one else got any money. The only perk I can remember was that we all had summer jobs that weren’t exactly 9 to 5. We would be there, but we might not have been working the entire time. For example, I worked at the YMCA and all I did was play basketball and got paid for just doing that. It was never totally shady since I was always there the hours I got paid. But as far as jobs come, it was a cushy gig.
In regards to the rumor of me being arrested, that never happened. There was an incident between me and teammate Stephen Bamigbola. We were in a car with one of the female trainers and Bami was being disrespectful to her and saying inappropriate things. I told Bami that if he didn’t watch his mouth, I was going to choke him out. Bami kept talking so I jumped across the back seat and started choking him. We got out of the car and were giving each other bear hugs. It was winter time so it was really icy out and neither of us could get our footing. We would fall on the ground and roll around and it probably did look like we were getting into a fight. No punches were thrown but the campus police were called. I was put in the back of a campus patrol car, but I never said anything about being Tony Stanley or being a basketball player. I most definitely did not kick out any car window. Coach Purnell was called about the situation and it was pushed aside with no charges being filed. Bami and I didn’t talk about it and we just went on with the season. I was never suspended by any of the coaches in my entire career.
The 1999-00 season will go down as one of the most exciting UD seasons of all time. Tony was named on several “Players to Watch” lists and was the leader of the team along with seniors Ashman, Edwin Young and Matt Cooper. The veteran team added two soon-to-be fan favorites in Nate Green and Brooks Hall. Green was technically a red-shirt sophomore, having appeared in just 6 games the previous year before going down with a season-ending injury (and was involved in a much-publicized fight in the Ghetto, which earned him a two-game suspension). Hall was a local product, one of Dayton’s most prized recruits in quite some time.
Nate Green, as you probably know, was mean. That guy was a lot like Ryan Perryman. He didn’t care if you were taller than him, faster than him, or stronger than him. He was going to work you over and until he won the battle. Brooks was really good. A lot of people got on him because they thought he should be better. But he still averaged 10 points a game his freshman year, which is really hard to do. All the local guys, Brooks, Cain, Yuanta, Andy Metzler back in the day, they had a lot of extra pressure because the fans saw them dominate in high school and immediately thought they could do the same in college. It wasn’t exactly fair.
Dayton started out the season on fire, rattling off eight wins in a row that included wins at New Mexico, Kentucky (in Cincinnati), and Marquette. The onset of a magical season was briefly tripped up with a brutal and inexplicable loss at Cleveland State. The Flyers rounded out their non-conference slate with wins against Miami (OH) and Texas A&M, and a loss to Saint Louis, and entered league play with an impressive 10-2 start. Stanley remembers the beginning of that junior year very well.
The trip to the Pit in New Mexico was a big test for us. The coaches were getting us ready for the atmosphere there, telling us the air was different and the sound was louder than our building. Playing at UD Arena and the noise levels that went on there definitely helped prepare us for the Pit. It was really exciting to get that win because we were the first non-conference team to win at the Pit in a long time. The game against Kentucky in Cincinnati was a true highlight. A bunch of my family came to Ohio to watch that game and I wanted to play really well for them. I knew about Keith Bogans because he was from my hometown and played at DeMatha. I was older than him but I wanted to show I was the better player. I scored 23 points that game and we held on for a close win. As for beating Marquette, that was always a treat. We played Marquette every year and they were always a tough team to play. Any time you can beat Marquette, that’s a good win (ed. note: Tony was a career 3-1 against Marquette).
The Flyers won the West Division crown with an 11-5 record, going 7-1 at home with their only loss coming at the hands of an exceptional Temple squad. The Flyers lost a one-point heart breaker to Xavier in Cincinnati and split the season series against George Washington. If Tony had to pick the teams he anticipated playing against the most in the Atlantic Ten, the aforementioned programs would lead the way.
Temple was always well coached with John Chaney and they had a lot of good players. Pepe Sanchez was always so clutch and Lamont Barnes always came to play. At Xavier, they ALWAYS had good players that would come up with big games. Gary Lumpkin, James Posey, Darnell Williams, David West, the list goes on and on. I hated Xavier and wanted to beat them every single time we played, but we could never win down there. They got all the calls and all the breaks. As for George Washington, they had the foreigners like Alexander Kuhl. Then when they would leave, players like Mike King would come in. They would just reload every year and their gym was always a pain to play in because it was so small. Another team I liked playing was Virginia Tech because that was basically my home team and I would always go up against Rolan Roberts, who was named the player of the year when we were playing together in high school.
Despite once again winning the West Division, and earning a victory in the A10 Tournament, the Flyers found themselves firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a 22-8 overall record. Regardless, most predictions had the Flyers firmly in the Dance due to their solid non-conference wins and their respectable showing in what was at that time a very underrated league. As the team gathered at Oliver Purnell’s house, the tension was building by the second, as the team had to wait until the last team in the field was announced to hear their fate.
That was the most nervous I had been at UD. We knew we were good and we knew we should make the tourney. I remember watching the teams being called on the screen and getting pissed off because I knew we were better than them. At that time, no one respected the A10 and everyone wanted teams from the ACC, Big East, and Big 10. We were literally the last team to be called and it was incredible. I remember thinking we weren’t going to make but then when they said, “And now the last team of the tournament, the Dayton Flyers” we all jumped up and down and celebrated. I finally reached my goal in making the NCAA Tournament. I wanted to play Purdue right then and there. We thought they were overrated and we were underrated. I knew we would beat them.
Playing out in Tucson, Arizona, the Flyers were the clear underdogs, but that certainly didn’t stop the Flyers from thinking they had more than a puncher’s chance. It was a back and forth tilt throughout the game which saw a game Dayton trailing by just three points at the half. The Flyers came out in the second half and quickly grabbed the momentum.
After a back and forth second half, which saw several lead changes, Brooks Hall was fouled with 6.7 seconds left and the Flyers trailing by just two points. Hall connected on the first foul-shot but missed the back end of the one-and-one, forcing UD to foul Purdue’s captain, Brian Cardinal. Cardinal proceeded to clang the front end of the one-and-one and Dayton had one last gasp with just over three seconds left in the ballgame. An off-balance attempt from David Morris, with some questionable contact from Cardinal, bounced off the rim at the buzzer . The Flyers first NCAA tilt in over a decade saw the Flyers lose 62-61, a defeat that still haunts Tony to this day.
First off, that one player on Purdue was NOT fouled. That was a bullshit call because Yuanta never touched him (ed. note: It was Greg McQuay who made 1-of-2 to put Purdue up by 2 with 20 seconds left). Then Brooks was fouled and missed one of the free throws. I had a pretty solid game but the play I’ll always was remember was in the first half. I nailed what I thought was a 3-pointer but they went back to the replay and saw that my toe was on the line and changed it to a 2-pointer. To think we lost by only 1 point still is frustrating. I know that play did not cost us the game but it’s crazy to think what might have happened if my toe wasn’t on the line. That was a bad feeling to lose that game. But was a great experience because we were one of the top 64 teams in the country.
The season’s brought more accolades and notoriety for Stanely, as he posted a career-high of 27 points against Duquesne, made the league’s Second Team and lead the team in almost every offensive category. With a successful individual and team season, Tony’s name started to appear on even more “Players to Watch” lists, including the radar of some NBA teams.
I was definitely thinking about leaving early for the NBA. I was told by several people, websites, and coaches that I would be a late first round pick. With a good workout, I might be able to sneak into the 20’s. I sat down with Purnell and weighed my options. At the time of going into his office, I was pretty set on leaving early. But like I said earlier, Purnell has a way with words and he convinced me to stay for my senior year. He told me that I was going to be a leader of this team and that there were a lot of good guys coming in the following year. I had heard good things about Keith Waleskowski, Ramod Marshall, and Sean Finn. I knew that me, Yuanta, and Cain could lead this team to another NCAA Tournament and I could improve my draft status, so I decided to stay.
It wouldn’t be long until there rumblings regarding issues between Cain Doliboa and Oliver Purnell (and the rest of the UD staff) began to rise to the surface. Reports materialized which alleged that Doliboa’s back was failing to heal and Purnell, seeing the writing on the wall, believed that Cain would never be the same player again. Rather than have a Doliboa take a medical redshirt, and keep his scholarship, Purnell convinced Cain to leave UD and freed up a scholarship for Stan King, a player many believed would more than make up for Doliboa’s absence. Cain went across town to play for Wright State, and Stan King would appear in just one game for the Flyers.
[title type=”special-h3-left” color=””]Senior Year – Playing with a Heavy Heart[/title]
Cain and Purnell did not get along. At all. Cain’s back was hurting and he felt that Purnell was not standing by him. Cain was never forced out of UD. He left on his own terms and chose Wright State because his brother was playing there and he also wanted to stick it in Purnell’s face. I was sad to see him go but was excited to get this new guy, Stan King, on the team. Unfortunately, that dude was a waste of talent. He was really, really good, but he could not lay off the weed. I would go over to see him at his dorm and he would always be rolling up a towel and covering his door so he could smoke in his room. I would always tell him that he can’t be doing that shit and he would eventually be drug tested. He didn’t listen and he failed a drug test and was kicked out of school almost immediately. Looking back on that entire year, we could have used Cain.
The last season of Tony Stanley’s Dayton career was full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. To open the season, the Flyers were participants in the prestigious Maui Invitational tournament which, as always, included several ranked teams — including the number one team in the country at the time, the Arizona Wildcats. The tournament provided the Flyers with a chance to open the season with resume building victories and further the program’s blossoming reputation. The 2000 Maui field, to date, is the best field of this history of the tournament. The Flyers would go 2-1 in Maui with victories over #12 UConn and #6 Maryland to go along with a tough loss against Arizona. Tony, who was named to the All-Tournament team, had a trip he would always remember, for both good and bad reasons.
Before my senior year started, I made a list – a hit list if you will – of all the top guards that I would be playing that year. I wanted to be the best player on the court every single game. Against UConn, I had one of my best games ever. Yuanta also had a great game (ed. note: Tony had 22 points while Yuanta had 24 points). I was really pumped for the Arizona game. They had NBA players at every position, Jason Gardner, Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, Gilbert Arenas. They were loaded! I had an absolute dreadful first half and I remember throwing up at half time. I felt like something was tugging at me and I couldn’t focus. I came out and played OK the second half but we still got beat pretty good.
After the game, there was a note for Oliver Purnell to call Tony’s aunt back home in Virginia because something bad had happened. Back at the hotel, Purnell went to Tony’s room and had to tell him that his mother had passed away.
My mom died of pneumonia. She was not sick so it was a big shock. Coach said that I could pack my bags and go home immediately and the team would go on without me. I realized that my mom had died right when I was throwing up. It was as if I knew she had passed away and it was my body and mind telling me. I wanted to go home but I also wanted to stay there in Hawaii with the team because they were my family and I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to play the next game, and the rest of my season, in memory of my mother.
Dayton went on to beat Maryland the next day. The Terps were loaded with future NBA players Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, and Steve Blake. Tony finished with a game-high 21 points, including a key 3-pointer near the end of the contest to put the game out of reach. The Flyers came home to the mainland and later in the week were ranked for the first time in nearly a decade. Stanley went back to Philadelphia to lay his mother to rest and returned to Dayton focused on the season still ahead. Dayton lost their next two games against Cincinnati and Marshall but bounced back with a win against Miami, a classic game in the long-running series between the two programs, dubbed the “Miracle at Millett.”
That Miami game was really special. I hit three 3-pointers in a row to win the game. It was a hard fought game. Juby Johnson was an excellent defender. Charlie Coles’ teams were always a pain to play because they focused on defense. They would not shoot until there was 6 seconds on the shot clock and they always took smart shots. They passed well and they defended the hell out of everyone. I had to work hard off of screens for those shots and I definitely felt that my mom was with me that game. It was one of my highlights that year.
Buoyed by their strong showing in Maui and the comeback victory at Miami, the Flyers posted a 9-4 non-conference record and looked to repeat as A10 West Division champions. Unfortunately, the Flyer’s A10 performance got off to a slow start, as Dayton registered a 3-5 record through the first eight games of conference play. The Flyers regained their footing over the back-half of the league schedule, going 6-2 and ending the regular season with a huge win at home against #25 Xavier.
It was nice to beat Xavier again at home. David West was a big scorer, again. Romain Sato might have been the best player I played against. I always thought he would make the NBA because he could shoot, jump, defend, and do everything else. I thought that win against Xavier along with a win in the A10 Tournament might get us into the dance but it wasn’t meant to be.
Dayton bowed out of the A10 tournament with a quarterfinal loss to Temple, ending their season with a 19-12 record. Although the Flyers missed out on the NCAA Tournament, they were selected to the NIT Tournament, the program’s third post-season appearance in four years. Dayton beat UNC-Wilmington and Richmond at UD Arena before suffering defeat at the hands of Detroit Mercy in what would be Tony’s final game in a Dayton uniform.
People forget that Mike Harmon was at UD for a little bit before transferring to Detroit so it was interesting to play against him. Our team couldn’t get into the flow of the game. We couldn’t stop their guard (ed. note: Rashad Phillips had 23 points). I was the only one of us to score in double figures. It was a tough loss and I didn’t want to go out a loser. I was crushed when we lost because when that final buzzer sounds, you know your career is over. It’s hard to explain. I was at a loss for words after the game.
Tony was named to the Atlantic Ten’s Second Team and the league’s First Team All-Defense. Tony finished his UD career with 1,835 points (7th all time), 291 3-pointers (2nd all time), 174 steals (3rd all time), and was selected to Dayton’s All-Century team. After the loss to Detroit, Stanley went home to Philadelphia for spring break and had to make some tough decisions regarding his immediate future. After protracted discussions with his family and agents, he made an exacting decision that would cost him a shot at immortality at Dayton.