It happened 40 days before U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the “Hawaii Admission Act,” which officially established Hawaii as the country’s 50th state. It was a cool evening in Manoa Valley on the night of February 6, 1959. Inside the University of Hawaii’s Otto Klum Gym, however, Tony Davis was sizzling hot.
The next day’s Honolulu Advertiser story said it all: “Tony Davis, the University of Hawaii’s 6-9 center, rammed home 45 points to give the Rainbows a clean sweep of their two-game series against Los Angeles State College with a 116-107 victory in an intercollegiate basketball game at Otto Klum gym.”
Ironically, Davis played at Los Angeles State College for half a season before transferring to Hawaii.
In the win, the high scoring junior made 18 field goals and nine free throws. His 45 points remains the single-game scoring record at UH. (Guard Trevor Ruffin poured in 42 points against Louisville in 1993; forward Gavin Smith put up 40 against Houston Baptist in 1977.) Hawaii’s 116 points was also a school record at the time; in fact, it was the very first time that a UH basketball team broke the century mark.
Nicknamed “Bones,” the slender Davis was a standout player at Danville High School in Illinois before taking his game to the next level. He originally committed to Seton Hall, then made stops at Bradley, Ventura Junior College (Calif.) and Los Angeles State College before coming to UH. Davis, who was head coach Al Saake’s first African-American scholarship player, completed his junior season in Hawaii by leading the team in scoring with 540 total points.
Davis was a team captain during his senior year. Unfortunately, his final season was marred by a lingering knee injury.
Davis had a brief flirtation with Hollywood. Before coming to UH, he landed a speaking role in Watusi, which starred George Montgomery and was loosely based on the novel King Solomon’s Mines.
In 2016, Davis was inducted into the UH Sports Circle of Honor.
Tony Davis (far left) was honored in February 2017, joining Jim Leahey and Riley Wallace as the newest members of the UH Sports Circle of Honor.
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