Before there was J.J. Redick, before Curtis Staples, before Steph Curry, there was Doug Day.
Day was a fiery competitor who had the perfect blend of dead-aim accuracy, a blistering fast release, and no conscience. None. The 6-foot-1 shooting guard was the first ever college player to hit 400 three-pointers. The Neil Armstrong of college basketball – no one had reached that milestone before Day.
In his junior season, Day led the nation with 117 threes, averaging over four three-point field goals a game, leading the Highlanders to a Big South Conference championship and a second consecutive 20-win season along the way.
The home of the Highlanders was a frenzied circus of celebration. For a Radford student and basketball fan, it was the perfect storm, with head coach, Oliver Purnell, pushing a fast tempo, a surrounding cast of penetrators and passers, and a local establishment offering free waffle fries for every ticket holder after a 100-point output.
In a small and intimate climate, with the stands looming over the court, chants of WAFTOS would vibrate off the cloth ceiling of the Dedmon Center when RU got over 90 points. Day and his teammates were happy to oblige the fans and push the offense for 40 minutes.
Day finished his career with 401 three-pointers which is still 12th all time. Day remains Radford’s all-time leading scorer with 2,027 career points, averaging 17.3 points per game for his career en route to All-Big South honors each of his four seasons at RU.
Day, who grew up in Blacksburg and currently leads the Blacksburg High School boys’ basketball program, will have his jersey retired in a pregame celebration prior to tip off against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday. It’s apropos that the recognition comes with the hometown Hokies in tow as the New River Valley has been the focal point of Day’s upbringing and impact.
Day grew up playing rec league with his father Douglas coaching and teaching him the fundamentals. He attributes his success to his parents.
“I’d spend hours and hours in the gym with my father. Shoot. Shoot. Come off screens and shoot. Come of the dribble and shoot. Dad would put me through drills … it paid off.”
Day’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed as he became an All-Group AA basketball high school player and caught the eye of Purnell and his assistant, Dr. Ron Bradley.
“Purnell sold me on the opportunity to play at a Division I school,” Day stated. “I could play right away, play close to home, and have my parents see my games. I could get a great education and play basketball at the highest level. It was a win-win situation”.
The impact of his parents continued onto his college career. Growing up, his parents instilled in him and his two sisters the drive to set goals and work hard. Now as a college athlete, those life-long lessons kicked in.
“I continued to set goals in college. I’d write them on my wall. I had goals on the court and in the classroom. My junior year I was shooting well and climbing the chain of the three-point champions and thought I might be able to obtain the top spot and I did. My senior year I decided I wanted to get 400 threes. I was blessed with good health and blessed to be able to do that.”
Fast forward 20 years later, and Day is instilling the same drive for success, on and off the court, in his players at Blacksburg High School. Taking over the coaching reigns in 2002, Day even invited his father to join his staff after his dad’s retirement from the Radford Armory.
“It’s the simple things to be successful,” Day urges. “There is no quick fix; you have to work for it. We put the emphasis on the small things, the fundamentals. It’s important to be successful in the short term and the long term in sports and in life. I still love the sport and try to influence the kids in a positive way and give back to them like it was taught to me”.
Days father passed away three years ago, but Day knows he will be with him tonight in spirit.
“It’s going to be emotional. It’s hard to describe. I’ve felt overwhelmed, honored, blessed, and humbled. There have been a lot of great players before me and after me at Radford. To have my jersey retired is special and I appreciate the honor and experience.”
After all the excitement and ceremony, Day returns to what is most important in his life: instilling leadership in his student athletes and spending time with his wife Dana (a Blacksburg High & Radford graduate), his kids Rachel aged 13, and Ella 8, and his mother Betty.
“Sports are a great avenue to accomplish what you want to accomplish but it’s important to be a great person to your friends, family, and community.”
Jeff Fife, a graduate of Radford University, never missed a home game in his tenure at RU and had way too many Waftos and Crusties after watching Highlander games.