A superstar turns 41

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Everyone has his/her own personal Michael Jordan.

If you were attending, oh, Syracuse in the early 1980s, it was Pearl Washington. Were you a student at Cleveland State in the mid-80s, Mouse McFadden was the man. There was Steve Alford at Indiana, Kevin Houston at Army, Billy Donovan at Provdence, Taylor Coppenrath at Vermont, etc … etc.

In the early 1990s, my Michael Jordan was Spencer Dunkley.

This was, as far as I’m concerned, the heyday of University of Delaware basketball. Prior to the 1991-92 season, the Blue Hens had never made the NCAA Tournament. But then a coach named Steve Steinwedel recruited a bushel of talented ballers. He found two athletic forwards, Mark Murray from New Jersey and Alexander Coles from Virginia, and a gutsy wing named Anthony (Sweet) Wright. His point guard, Brian Pearl, came out of York, Pa.

The centerpiece, however, was Spencer Dunkley.

A gangly, awkward project out of Wolverhampton, England, Dunkley was as raw as raw gets. He played one season at Newark (Del.) High School, then arrived at UD as a freshman with little game and minimal optimism. But the time Spencer left, however, he was Delaware basketball—a ferocious 6-11 shot blocker whose battles with Hartford’s Vin Baker remain (in my mind) legendary. When the Hens traveled to Indianapolis to face Louisville in the first round of the ’93 NCAA Tournament, Spence—being Spence—promised to walk home if they lost.

They lost.

He took the plane.

Dunkley was always a joy to cover—smiling, funny, quirky, never knew what was going to come from his lips. He was drafted in the second round by the Indiana Pacers, but was cut. He spent a decade playing overseas, and now coaches high school hoops in the First State.

I’m writing this because I just saw on Facebook that Spence turns 41 today—which blows my friggin’ mind. Wasn’t that Hartford-Delaware classic just yesterday? Could Malik Rose have been banging you in the lane … 17 years ago? Man … man.

Happy birthday, Spencer Dunkley.

The Jordan of Delaware, ’92.

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