Turning Clay to Gold

Former Kaiser High and UH star Clay Stanley, having led the USA to the Olympic gold medal in Beijing, talks to MidWeek about his experience at the Games, finding new volleyball goals and his life in Russia as a professional player

Yu Shing Ting
Friday - October 17, 2008
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Stanley scored the gold medal-winning point for Team USA

Former UH star Clay Stanley, MVP of the USA gold medal volleyball team, was born to play the game

You can say it’s in his genes.As the son of Jon Stanley and Sandra Haine, both former professional volleyball players, local boy Clay Stanley was destined to become a great athlete.

But who knew he would one day win an Olympic gold medal? Or hit the last ball to secure that victory for the U.S. men’s volleyball team and be named MVP?

Not even Stanley - nicknamed Bird from an early age - himself could have imagined it, as a late-comer to the sport who preferred other activities growing up. He played basketball and water polo during his senior year at Kaiser High School, and enjoyed surfing, skateboarding and playing video games. Kaiser didn’t have a boy’s volleyball team, so his experience as a youth is credited to the Outrigger Canoe Club, where he played club ball for fun. And, of course, his family.


His dad, Jon, played on the 1968 men’s Olympic volleyball team, is a three-time USVBA all-American and is in the Volleyball Hall of Fame. Mom Sandra played professionally in the IVA for the Denver Comets and L.A. Stars and was a member of the Canadian national team. She even played while five months pregnant with Stanley, gave birth in the off-season and returned to Denver with baby in tow. Stepdad Marc Haine was an all-American at San Diego State. And stepgrandfather Tom Haine also was on the 1968 men’s Olympic volleyball team.

Stanley (red shirt) with his ohana in Beijing. That’s girlfriend Niki on the far right

“I played volleyball at Outrigger during the summers, and that was before I went to high school, and then I didn’t start again until after my junior year,” explains Stanley, who stands at 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds. “Then I got a full-ride scholarship at the University of Hawaii and red-shirted one year and played for three.”

Stanley also played in the USA Volleyball boy’s Junior Olympics during his junior year in high school, which is when he realized he enjoyed the sport.

But it was at UH where Stanley’s amazing talent in volleyball was recognized. He finished his college career 10th on Hawaii’s all-time kill list, and broke Hawaii’s single-match kill record with 50 against UCLA. In 2000, he tied the school record for aces at 54.

After UH,Stanley went on to play

 

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