Magley finds his calling

Topeka Capital-Journal, The,  Feb 28, 2006  

Former Kansas standout David Magley has led Bradenton Christian to 20 wins in each of his six seasons.

BRADENTON, Fla. --- If everyone gets real friendly with his neighbor, they might cram 700 spectators into Bradenton Christian School's bandbox of a gym.

If, that is, the fire marshal is somewhere else that night.

How tiny is this gym with its five-row bleachers on one side, a standing area behind the team seats on the other and a thin spectator balcony overhead?

Think Hickory High from "Hoosiers." Now reduce that image by one- fourth and you've got the gymnasium David Magley --- who played high school ball in hoops haven Indiana and collegiately in Kansas' venerated Allen Fieldhouse --- calls one of his favorite places to watch basketball.

"This is the kind of place I used to see all the time as a kid in Indiana --- packed and rocking every night," says Magley, Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1978.

"You know," he adds, "I've played in both the great Gardens --- Madison Square and Boston --- and I played (collegiately) at Rupp Area, but I really think this place gets as loud as any of them.

"And it's got that old barn shape that reminds me of the Fieldhouse (at KU). Of course, there's a difference between 17,000 and 700 fans. But this still seems like coming home for me."

The "sold out" signs at BCS went up days before Magley's Panthers ran their record to 29-1 Saturday night. Their come-from-behind regional victory put them in Florida's Class 1A Final Four for the second time in Magley's six years at the school of 160 students.

So much for the bigger-is-better theory.

It's here in a small-school environment that David Magley, now 46, realized some of life's greatest joys.

His oldest daughter is starting a career in professional tennis. Another is competing in Division 1 basketball. His oldest son is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds for his dad's state championship contender and is a Division I recruit. His youngest son might ultimately be the family's best athlete.

"We've lived in a lot of great places, but it wasn't until we got here that we really nested," Magley says. "It wasn't just the climate, either. It was the (Christian) community we found here."

His joy comes in a place removed by more than miles from the standards he once thought necessary for success.

Magley once thought he would live out his lifelong NBA dream when he was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982. But after playing in 14 NBA games, he tried to revive his career in the CBA, where he played for Phil Jackson in Albany, before eventually going overseas to Belgium and Spain.

"But when you hear, 'You're a bad player,' in four different languages, you know basketball is no longer in your future," said Magley, a 6-foot-8 perimeter player who would have scored more than 1,021 points in four seasons at KU had the 3-point shot been in play.

His life's road then became a series of twists and turns.

An academic All-American in addition to being an all-conference forward as a senior, Magley sold ladies coats in Kansas City and ceiling tiles in Des Moines --- "Who better to demonstrate ceiling installations than a 6-8 guy?" he says with a laugh --- before taking executive positions with home material companies in Olathe and Lawrence.

But it wasn't until he found a small Christian school in the sun- drenched south Tampa Bay area that Magley and his family discovered where they wanted to be.

The Magleys came to Bradenton six years ago so daughter Jennifer could enroll at the famous Nick Bollettieri IMG Tennis Academy. Jennifer eventually became a four-time All-American at Florida and is playing professionally in the lower rungs of the WTA Tour.

Magley and his wife Evelyn, also a KU grad, accepted positions at Bradenton Christian, where younger daughter Jessica flourished. She left BCS as the No. 3 scorer and rebounder in Florida high school history. Now playing at Rhode Island, her retired jersey hangs in the tiny BCS gym.

In his six years at BCS, Magley has produced six 20-win seasons and one Division 1 player --- Wichita State freshman Ryan Bradley.

His next will come in two years when Magley's 6-foot-8 son, D.J., has his pick of Division I schools. KU, Oklahoma, Purdue, Florida and Florida State are among the contenders.

"It's amazing how things work out with your kids," Magley says. "Jennifer was hitting tennis balls against the wall since second grade. Jessica was doing ball-handling drills and shooting, shooting, shooting since the fourth grade.

"But D.J. is just now getting it. His dad shot 1,000 shots a day since the third grade, but D.J. was out chasing salamanders. It was only this past summer before his junior year that he really starting working. When Jank (KU assistant Tim Jankovich) came to see him this past summer, he said D.J. needs to jump and shoot better to become a major D-I player. Well, he's doing things now that he couldn't have shown Jank five months ago."