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Feature on Clarence Hanley (ODU'86) by Tim Hayes-bristol Herald Courier

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: September 20, 2010
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Sept. 20, 2010

BHC'S BACK IN TIME: Hanley's days at Marion were a highlight reel By Tim Hayes

Before his career at Old Dominion University and overseas, the 6-foot-10 Hanley was a star for Scarlet Hurricanes. This is the ninth in the Bristol Herald Courier's "Back In Time" series

It was but one season in an accolade-filled, well-traveled basketball career that would include successful stints on the collegiate and professional levels.

However, it was one of the best times of Clarence Hanley's life.

As a senior at Marion High School in 1982, Hanley was the star on one of the most memorable teams in school history. The Scarlet Hurricanes rolled through the regular season unbeaten and claimed the Southwest District title.

In what was dubbed as "Scarlet Fever" folks from all over Smyth County packed Marion's gym to get a glance at the talented team and its star player. It became the hottest ticket in town.

Hanley didn't disappoint. Just look at what the 6-foot-10 big man did during the postseason:

--- He scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in an 82-52 thrashing of Tazewell in the first round of the Southwest District tournament.

--- That was followed by a 51-47 overtime win over Virginia High in the SWD semifinals. Hanley pumped in 20 points and corralled 13 rebounds in the contest.

--- A 32-point, 14-rebound masterpiece helped Marion polish off Gate City, 67-54, to win the SWD tourney.

--- He opened the Region IV semifinal game with Blacksburg by scoring Marion's first 14 points and finished with 42 points and 12 rebounds in a 71-57 beatdown.

--- A 28-point, 11-rebound outing was on the agenda in the Region IV title game as Marion held off Radford for a 56-50 victory.

--- Marion's season ended with a 45-43 overtime setback to Brunswick in the state semifinals. Hanley had 28 points and 22 rebounds in his final prep game.

Hanley would go on to play in two NCAA tournaments as a star for Old Dominion University. He later played professionally for more than a decade overseas.

Now retired from pro basketball, Hanley lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. Yet, he still has fond memories of his time dominating opponents in Southwest Virginia.

"Marion was great," Hanley said. "When I grew up there and lived in Marion it was the biggest and best place in the world at that time."

Smooth shooter

Rick Blevins still remembers it clearly.

The perfect form. The relative ease. The picturesque follow through. The resounding swish that would follow nearly every time Hanley hoisted up one of his smooth jumpshots.

"He's one of the best outside shooters I've ever seen," said Blevins, one of Hanley's former teammates. "That was before the 3-point line. If they would have had that, he would have averaged a lot more points. He had a real soft touch."

There have been few 6-10 players in Southwest Virginia that have possessed the shooting range of Hanley. Heck, there have been few 6-10 players in the area period.

His dexterity came from hours of practice.

"It was something I worked on quite a bit," Hanley said. "During high school I went to different basketball camps and things. I got some good instruction there. I was at one camp at Virginia Tech and one of the counselors told me that big men that can shoot the ball will be able do a little something as far as college.

"So I focused on it. I wasn't thinking about being a shooting guard or anything, I just wanted to be a good shooter. Because a lot of times in high school, I was double and triple-teamed and to be able to shoot the ball helped alleviate some of that."

Hanley's senior season started off with an impressive performance as Marion knocked off powerful Oak Hill Academy.

"Anybody that watched that could tell he could hold his own," Blevins said. "They had five Division-I people on their team. He had the size to match them and he played his butt off."

The college recruiters took notice. Michigan State, Maryland, Auburn and Clemson were among the suitors for the SWD sensation.

Hanley didn't take to the increased media attention or the spotlight. He was rarely quoted in the newspapers from nearly 30 years ago and was known as a soft-spoken giant.

"He was always a quiet fellow," Blevins said.

Added Hanley, "I just didn't have a lot to say."

Old Dominion would eventually win out on securing Hanley's services. But he left quite a legacy at Marion - racking up 1,813 career points.

He also left behind a great group of teammates and plenty of memories.

"A lot of people knew what their roles were and did those roles," Hanley said. "You can't have five guys that just want to shoot. You have to have the right mix of players to form that chemistry."

ODU and beyond

Attending Old Dominion was a wise move on Hanley's part.

"It turned out great," he said.

Hanley engaged in battles with the likes of Southern Methodist's Jon Koncak, South Alabama's Terry Catledge, Duke's Jay Bilas and Bill Wennington of St. John's in the paint during his collegiate career.

Hanley held his own.

The Monarchs were a winning program and beat West Virginia in the first round of the 1986 NCAA tourney. The team would lose in the second round to Duke in a nationally-televised game.

"It was great," Hanley said. "The Greensboro Coliseum. Sold out. It was on CBS. It was great in that respect, but we lost."

The Detroit Pistons drafted Hanley in the fifth round of the 1986 NBA Draft. He failed to hang on with the team during training camp, but ended up landing a job in France, playing for a team based out of Paris.

Stints in exotic locales like Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina followed.

Basketball has been a large part of Hanley's life. His time at Marion was perhaps the most gratifying chapter in his success story.

"All the friends and people I grew up with for one thing," Hanley said of what he remembered most during his time at the school. "And my senior year, making the state playoffs was special."

CLARENCE HANLEY

High School: Marion

College: Old Dominion University

Then: He scored 1,813 career points at Marion and was the star on a team that went 25-1 during his senior season. He later played for four years at ODU and played in two NCAA tournaments.

Now: Hanley works for a health insurance company in Philadelphia. He's married with two kids.

From the Archives: "There's no way a man his size can shoot like that. ... but he did," Blacksburg coach Bob Trear to the Bristol Herald Courier after Hanley torched his team in the Region IV tournament.

BHC's BACK IN TIME

This is the ninth story in a series that will highlight former prep standouts from the area and what they are doing now. The spotlight will be on athletes who starred in various eras, the impact they made and their reflections on their glory days:

Today: Clarence Hanley, Marion

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