The night Dillon Glendenning became a star

Dozens of fans, many middle-school age, waited after the slam-dunk contest to greet Dillon Glendenning of Findlay Prep. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016.
Dozens of fans, many middle-school age, waited after the slam-dunk contest to greet Dillon Glendenning of Findlay Prep. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016.

He has no idea how the hysteria started.

“I have no idea,” said the most famous bench-warming player on the No. 1 prep basketball team in America, and possibly on all of planet earth.

All Dillon Glendenning knew was that here he was, after his team’s big win, standing on the court at ‘Iolani School gym, surrounded by dozens of adoring fans, all kids. He had more fans wanting to take his photo than Corona del Sol standout Saben Lee, who had just rocked the house with a Vince Carter/Paul George inspired reverse windmill to win the annual Slam Dunk Contest.


Glendenning could not explain the surreal atmosphere. Was it some Instagram photo story that his puppy back home in Nevada had suddenly died? No, he says. Maybe a tweet that his girlfriend broke up with him by text and students in ‘Iolani gym felt his pain. No again. Not true. So, what just happened on Tuesday night in the midst of the biggest crowd in years to attend the ‘Iolani Classic, practically overshadowing Findlay Prep’s semifinal win over Kahuku?

He knows nothing.

The swell began somewhere in the middle of the makai bleachers on a late Tuesday night.

spt-iolani-classic-2nd-half-298

In the fourth quarter of Findlay Prep’s mostly one-sided battle with Kahuku, the murmurs escalated into blatant cheers for no member of the starting five for either team. Instead, when Glendenning rose from the Findlay bench and approached the scorer’s table for the first time all evening, the makai bleachers roared.

Glendenning had played in two previous ‘Iolani Classic games for the Pilots without any fanfare, scoring exactly three points against Mid-Pacific and three points against ‘Iolani. A reserve who makes the most of his rare minutes on the court for the nation’s No. 1 prep basketball team, he’s as unassuming as he is eager to please.


Once he stepped on the hardwood, the kids on the makai bleachers were giddy with excitement. They pleaded and begged him to shoot every time he touched the ball. The rest of the audience in the standing-room only crowd was puzzled, then amused. But when Glendenning finally launched and hit a 3 — a 25-footer from way beyond the arc — the entire gym went crazy. Abso-freaking-lutely berserko.

Felipe Ojastro’s Twitter video LINK

At that moment, it was as if the mauka side of the gym finally got it. Whatever it was. Dillon Glendenning Hysteria captured the entire gym, providing the loudest — by far — cheers and anticipation in 13 hours and eight games of basketball at the Classic on Tuesday. In fact, when his fellow reserves hoisted up shots, some new fans softly heckled them. How dare they interrupt the flow of our Dillon! Not that he heard or endorsed that tiny bit of negativity.

“The crowd was feeling me. I felt the hype so I gave them what they wanted,” he said of the 1,000 or so fans jam-packed into the small, pristine prep hoops palace. “It was unexpected of me to play and I just wanted to do what my coaches and the fans want. It just makes me feel special and wanted on the team.”

Glendenning wasn’t done. A few Findlay possessions later, he caught a pass in the left corner, pump-faked a Kahuku defender into the air, dribbled right and let fly a high-arching 3-point shot that was way off… until it kissed the glass and banked in. Perfectly. Just as planned.

Findlay's bench erupted when Glendenning made a 3-pointer. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser
Findlay’s bench erupted when Glendenning made a 3-pointer. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

Dillon Glendenning Hysteria morphed into absolute pandemonium. Total strangers, young and old, smiled at each other and giggled. A few did the double high-five with perfect execution and no awkwardness. Estranged siblings who refused to speak to each other for decades suddenly hugged and danced. Grown men in XXXL shirts screamed in delight though they did not know the name of this kid in the Findlay jersey. A grizzled police officer shed a tear and did not wipe it away. A dusty, dead light bulb in the janitor’s closet lit up for the first time in months. What. Was. Going. On? It was the Beatles coming to America all over again, without the tossing of flowers and various garments onto the stage. No, this was far more spontaneous. And ecstatic. It was crowd behavior at its most mysterious, and perhaps, most persuasive. And yet, nobody could stop wanting more from the unsuspecting, red-haired Pilot.


Maybe it’s his normalness that is irresistible. After all, on a superteam of 6-foot-9, maybe-Westworld-level (android) hosts capable of incredible physical feats, he’s a slender 5-foot-10 baller who fits into this era as easily as the one back in the 1960s, outfitted in a droopy socks/Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers/belt-buckle-uniforms wardrobe. Without a hitch. He is timeless. He is universal. He is beloved in one state, Hawaii, and maybe even two, though Nevada probably doesn’t appreciate Pilot No. 2 the way island fans do.

He is Dillon Glendenning. He now has a tale to tell when he returns to Nevada in a day or two, and for all Christmas seasons to come, he can share the real-life story of how a reasonably ordinary boy became, for a few minutes, the light that shone brightest on the biggest stage of prep basketball in the good ol’ USA.

The dozens of fans waiting to take photos with Findlay Prep's Dillon Glendenning were disappointed when he was whisked off to rejoin his team as it departed from the ‘Iolani Classic. There's always tomorrow. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016
The dozens of fans waiting to take photos with Findlay Prep’s Dillon Glendenning were disappointed when he was whisked off to rejoin his team as it departed from the ‘Iolani Classic. There’s always tomorrow. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016

COMMENTS

  1. Big Red! December 21, 2016 11:46 am

    It’s the Kahuku fans! They’re Krazy like that! All good!


  2. Jenny Talls December 22, 2016 8:37 am

    You sorta touched/hinted it, but let’s be real. On a team of superstar players who are mostly black, he was the whitest “red-haired Pilot” there, and thus the oddball legendary hero we all needed.


  3. Chuck Glendenning December 22, 2016 2:34 pm

    Thank you for all that cheered for my son last night. Great basketball fans and awesome people. Very humbling, This is where I will spend most of my retirement years, the people of Hawaii are the best! God Bless and hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you next year. God Bless


  4. turfwar December 22, 2016 3:08 pm

    Went to three nights of the Classic and this was by far the most special moment of the tournament. Mahalo Paul for a great Xmas story.


  5. Paul Honda December 22, 2016 10:11 pm

    I look at this picture closely and I am now convinced that Dillon Glendenning is a bridge builder of World Peace. He is a Unifier of All Peoples.
    http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/SPT-Iolani-Classic-2nd-Half-332.jpg


  6. Paul Honda December 22, 2016 10:20 pm

    Jenny Talls,
    If I recall correctly, he was the last of the reserves sent into the game. That only built momentum for his fans. The crescendo was setting off the local Richter Scale. Also, his haircut. He looks more like a Rhodes Scholar than a typical basketball player; his teammates all have buzz or shaved haircuts. His red hair already makes him unique, but that hairstyle and length is definitely something he is comfortable in. I think the ‘Iolani kids in the audience who started the groundswell could relate to him on that level. He’s comfortable in his own skin, so to speak, and everyone saw that. I’m 99.999% sure of this.


  7. Paul Honda December 22, 2016 10:23 pm

    Mr. Glendenning, your son brought joy to people cheering for both Findlay Prep and Kahuku, and every other team there at the Classic. This photo says it all. You’d have to go to the United Nations to find a group more diversified like this, and you wouldn’t find them in bliss like this, either.
    http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/SPT-Iolani-Classic-2nd-Half-332.jpg


  8. Chuck Glendenning December 23, 2016 9:38 am

    Paul, all of your compliments are very gracious. Dillon and I landed in Texas late last night and Dillon will spend the holidays with his family. Dillon has an older sister that will receive her masters from Texas A&M this year and a younger sister (three years old) who Dillon loves and hugs onto every chance he gets.

    Dillon has been traveling the country and playing competitive basketball since the 4th grade. Paul Washington, the coach of Findlay Prep, has been around Dillon and has helped coached Dillon since the 4th grade. PJ Washington, Spencer Washington, Dillon Glendenning, Chris Giles and Jack Schweitz have know each other since the 4th grade and have played together many times. Paul, PJ, Spencer, Chris and Jack have been an inspiration for Dillon.

    When Paul Washington called and offered Dillon a spot on his superstar national team, Dillon accepted knowing he would not get the same minutes as if he stayed and played for his high school team in Texas. Dillon is a fighter and will rise to the occasion and not disappoint. He is a very humble kid with his feet on the ground.

    Dillon loves the game of basketball and so does his dad. Dillon is a down to earth kid that would do anything for anyone. Dillon has told me many times he wants to be a doctor so he can help the sick be cured of their illness. Who knows maybe Dillon will become a doctor and move to Hawaii?

    I am blessed by the lord beyond my wildest dreams, and thank him everyday. I truly am overwhelmed by all of the comments, support and generosity of the fans and Hawaii people.

    Thank you for all of your kindness towards Dillon. I was going to move west somewhere in California but now have changed my mind and will move to Hawaii. This is where I want to live, with truly the best people on this planet!


  9. Mitch Malone December 28, 2016 8:12 pm

    Congratulations Dillon on your Big Night, just caught wind of it ! The TX Bluechips Family is proud of you ! Continued Success & Blessing on your season !


  10. Alan Walls August 29, 2019 12:21 pm

    Playing DI ball now: https://suutbirds.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=6954


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