Friday, March 26, 1999
UHs Clay Stanley
still learning to fly
The Rainbows' opposite,By Cindy Luis
nicknamed the 'Bird,' has yet to
reach his potential as a
Dad's in the Hall of Fame.
Mom, a Canadian national team member, is in there, too.
Volleyball is in his genes. And now it's up to Clay Stanley to find the focus that will help him arrive at his destiny.
The 6-foot-9 opposite for the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team has all the tools and talent to become an elite international player. National team coach Doug Beal has picked him for the U.S. squad that will compete at the World University Games in May; a spot on the U.S. B team this summer is an unspoken possibility.
All Stanley needs to do is grow into the game as he has his body. He realizes that, and knows he has a lot of work ahead if he's going to realize that potential.
"Three years from now I see my future in volleyball," said Stanley. "It's probably the one thing I can be successful in. I've just got to concentrate and not be the lazy kid that I am."
When the big man they call "Bird" wants to, he can totally dominate a match. The key is wanting it enough.
One night he will be unstoppable, putting down 32 kills. The next night, he'll hit in negative numbers.
Statistics: Second in kill average (4.35) and aces (17) for the Rainbows. Had a career-high 32 kills in the March 12 loss at Long Beach State.
Fun fact: Did not play volleyball in high school, lettering in basketball and water polo in his senior year at Kaiser.
It's called motivation and concentration. Stanley is hoping it will happen, just as it did when everything clicked five years ago at the junior nationals.
Stanley grew up, surrounded by the volleyball and volleyball legends. His father, Jon, was an Olympian and three-time USVBA all-American; mom Sandra played professionally in the 1970s; step-father Marc Haine was an all-American at San Diego State; step-grandfather, the late Tom Haine, was the 1968 Olympic team captain, Jon Stanley's teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member.
"Everywhere volleyball was around me," said Clay, who played club ball "for fun" at Outrigger Canoe Club. "It was thrown on me but I wasn't really interested until I was about 17. In the Junior Olympics, I felt good about how I was playing. I was enjoying the game and loving it."
But Kaiser High School had no boys' volleyball program and Stanley was more into skateboarding. Finally, in his senior year, Stanley turned to basketball, helping the Cougars get to the state tournament, and to water polo, where he was second-team all-OIA as a goalie.
Volleyball, however, could not be put off. The late-bloomer was wooed by UCLA after graduation but Stanley's heart was in Hawaii; he signed with the Rainbows and became a part-time starter as a freshman in 1997. He redshirted last year and concentrated on school. The Spanish major admits to not being the strongest of students and doesn't know if he wants to stay in school to complete his eligibility and degree.
"I hope he stays and graduates because, no matter how good a player you are, volleyball will end at some point and you'll need a career eventually," said UH coach Mike Wilton. "Clayton is still a work in progress. Dedication is what it will take for him to get to the next level. He's already got good hops. His jump reach is just under 12 feet. He's got a 38-inch approach vertical. Good numbers, but he can get better.
"He's come such a long way in the three years we've had him. He's got things his dad didn't haven't, more of an arm swing, more of a jump."
"He has the things you can't teach, the quickness, size and strength," said 6-foot-6 Jon Stanley, a Rainbow volleyball assistant coach. "He has things I would have killed to have. Clay just has to learn the game and get the experience.
"Volleyball gave me that boost of self-esteem. Clay hasn't found that motivation yet. He has so much potential and it's barely been tapped."
Clay has had plenty of encouragement, some from long distance. His mom moved to Seattle nearly 10 years ago but has tried to stay involved with her son as much as possible. She flew to Honolulu to help him celebrate his 21st birthday on Jan. 20. That night, he had a team-high 20 kills in the win over then No. 2 Lewis.
"I hadn't seen him in quite a while and I was so impressed," she said in a phone call from Seattle. "He blew me away. He has so much more ability than Jon and I combined.
"I'm also impressed how he's worked his way through staying in school. He's always struggled with that part. But he's such a fabulous kid. He has all the talent in the world and can do whatever he wants, as long as he's focused."
Stanley has regained the starting spot for tonight's match with Loyola Marymount. How long he stays in the rotation is up to him.
"I want to be a good player," he said. "I want to be in the lineup full time. I need to find the consistency and focus."
"Clayton can be as good as he wants to be," said Wilton. "I've always said the sky's the limit with him."
For "Bird", it's not a matter of knowing how to fly but learning how to soar.