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.
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.
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.