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On This Day In History | 1991

January 20, 2018
Basketball 1991

The 1990-91 Bears (Shanks: #21)

On this day 27 years ago, Dan Shanks was featured in a lengthy Newsday profile. Here is the article from A. J. Benza.

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Hoosiers II Plays at Stony Brook:

Indiana transfer provides lift as basketball team gets off to fast start

Danny Shanks remembers what life was like in Indiana, for a young boy in love with basketball. He remembers shooting baskets with his father at the park behind their house in Muncie. He remembers he would shoot and his dad would rebound. And when Mr. Shanks returned to the house, Danny would sneak down Wheeling Avenue, cut through a few backyards and step inside the gymnasium of Ball State University. And he would shoot some more. And after a few hours, the Cardinals’ then-assistant coach, Dick Hunsaker, would flick the lights a few times and Danny would go home.

Muncie had plans for Danny Shanks. He was supposed to grow up to be the next cause for Hoosier hysteria. Shanks was going to lead Muncie Central High School to another of its eight state championships, play big-time college ball right there in town and go off to the NBA with his Midwestern ideals and a sweet jumpshot leading the way.

That’s why on the day that Shanks made the Muncie jayvee roster, he raced to an area hospital, to his ailing father’s bedside, to tell him the news.

But his father died the next day and Shanks suffered – emotionally and academically. After a subpar junior season on varsity, and facing the possibility of being the sixth man in his senior year, Shanks transferred from Muncie to The Stony Brook School.

His arrival at the prestigious school on Route 25A was a coincidence. Shanks’ sister is married to Sanford Hull, the grandson of Dr. Frank E. Gabelein – the school’s first headmaster. They arranged for a visit and Shanks was sold on the prospect of improving his grades and becoming the star on a team not known for its basketball. Indeed, Stony Brook posted a losing record – 5-7 – in League VIII last season.

Suddenly, though, Stony Brook is 4-0, and it’s all because of the Hoosier living in Hegeman Hall who scores 33 points a game.

“I was looking for a change,” Shanks said. “Public school education just wasn’t for me. Teachers didn’t care much and I didn’t have to work very hard. It’s like, if you’re good at basketball, you slide through school. F’s become D’s, coaches pull you out of class to look at game films . . . “

Leaving his mother behind in Muncie was not easy for Shanks. The day he left they hardly spoke because all the tears made it difficult to talk. Now he calls her first thing after every game. “She told me she wants me to call her after my games for the rest of my life,” Shanks said.

“The move is good for Danny because we thought he needed playing time to to grow mentally and physically,” said Jean Shanks, who also expressed Shanks’ interest in looking toward a prep school after graduation. “We thought he would be exposed to a different realm of things. A whole new atmosphere.”

Part of the change is the size of Stony Brook’s quaint gymnasium. At Muncie Central – the school that lost the big game in the movie “Hoosiers” – fans pay $2.50 to fill 6,000 seats for each game. Naturally, no challenge at Stony Brook produced as many butterflies as Shanks’ experience of playing in front of a crowd that size.

“I heard they sell season tickets there,” said teammate Danny Kelly, an age-ineligible player with excellent skills. The point guard practices with the team and is a regular on the Brooklyn playgrounds when he is home. “I’d love to play with him. We’re fire and ice. I’d bring it up and he’d fill it up.”

Right now, a trip to the playoffs would suit Shanks just fine. When last they spoke, his mom said she’d even catch a plane for that game. “He lives for this,” she said. “And I wouldn’t miss a big game with Danny playing in the big city.”

Stony Brook is not the big city, but it just might be the first stop at the Big Time for Danny Shanks. But somehow you knew he’d find his way. New York was always a signpost in his mind. It was a daily reminder everyday after Hunsaker would flicker the lights on him.

Shanks would walk out the gym, toss himself a lead pass, dribble across Neeley Street and up New York Avenue.

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Bear

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