Archdeacon: ‘I want them to see how special Dwight Anderson was’

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Sunday night, 58-year-old Alan Copeland hopes he feels like a sixth-grader again.

“My earliest memory of watching Dwight play was when I was in sixth grade at Jackson (Elementary) and they let us go down to the gym for five minutes during the school day so we could watch a little of the eighth-grade basketball game,” he said. "They’d never done anything like that before.

“And we loved it. We were up there in the balcony, looking down, watching the big boys play. One day we knew we’d be seventh- and eighth-graders and one day that would be us.”

Well, it would be … and it would not.

None of them would ever be like the late Dwight Anderson, the greatest home-grown basketball talent Dayton ever produced.

Copeland grew up in the same West Dayton neighborhood that Anderson did. He was friends with Dwight’s younger brother, Arthur, whom they called Dougie, and his older brother was classmates with Dwight’s older brother, Jeff.

“It wasn’t until years later that I put two and two together and realized why our school let us go down to the gym that day,” Copeland said. “They knew Dwight’s talent and they wanted all the rest of us to see just how special he was, too.”

And that’s just what Copeland is trying to do Sunday evening with his tribute to Anderson at the Dixie Twin Drive-In.

After an early life of national fame, then decades of back-alley hardship, homelessness and drug-caused despair, and finally an admirable, against-all-odds, phoenix-like rise to substance-free clear headedness and societal contribution, Anderson died Sept. 5 at the Dayton apartment he shared with his mother. He was 59.

Copeland is now the general manager of the Dixie Twin Drive-In (6201 N. Dixie Drive in Harrison Twp.) and Sunday at 8 p.m., the outdoor theater is hosting its Dwight “The Blur” Anderson Night.

The Blur was Dwight’s nickname on the court and a documentary of the same name was made by Cleveland sportswriter Branson Wright and released in 2015. Sunday it will be shown along with videotaped interviews of hoops hall of famers like Isiah Thomas, Dominque Wilkins, James Worthy and many more all raving about Anderson. There also will be rare game footage from Anderson’s days at Roth High, the University of Kentucky and Southern Cal.

The cost is $10 per carload and Copeland said once expenses are paid, the money collected will go to the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach program ( in Anderson’s name.

Hottest ticket in town

“Dwight lived on Homewood Avenue, right by McCabe Park, and I lived on the other side of Inland and Jackson Elementary on Holloway,” Copeland said.

They all went to Jackson, which has since been torn down.

Anderson went to Roth High School and immediately led the Falcons to fame. As a sophomore he led the team to the 1976 state title.

Soon Roth basketball games were the hottest ticket in town. When crowds got four-deep around the sidelines at home games, the contests were moved to UD Arena.

Anderson became the No. 1 recruit in the nation and as a senior he was a Parade All American, averaging 38 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists per game.

“I saw several of their games,” said Copeland, who went to Dunbar. “They’d pack the Arena. College coaches from all across the country would be in the crowd. It was really something.”

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Anderson went to Kentucky, starred as a freshman, ran into bumpy times with Coach Joe B. Hall and eventually transferred to USC. He became an All-Pac 10 player there. But by the time the 1982 NBA draft came around, concerns were rising about Anderson’s off the court behavior.

Stories of drug and alcohol use surfaced and his pro stock dropped. He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the second round, cut in training camp and then eventually played a few game for Denver.

After that came a couple of celebrated seasons in the Continental Basketball League, a stop in Philippines and a brief stint with the Dayton Wings.

By then he was beginning his long slide into the netherworld of drugs, alcohol and hopeless and for years he lived in the shadows of the city, away from his family and old friends.

Finally, people like former Dayton Flyers and NBA player Sedric Toney and local coach Eric Bradley got him into the John Lucas Treatment Center in Houston for a 13-month stay.

Anderson returned to Dayton clean and sober and ready to contribute. He coached a while at Fairmont under Hank Bias, played on an “Old-timers” team and was living a low-key life and working at a local laundry when he passed away.

‘Dwight was all of them’

“I used to drive by the park and I’d see him and think of stopping,” Copeland said. "Then I’d go, ‘Oh, I’ll do it another day. He probably wouldn’t recognize me anymore.’ I kept putting it off.

"When he passed away, it was really hard to hear. I kicked myself. We always think time is forever and then, all of a sudden, someone is gone.

"I’m in a position now to do something for him, but I wish I’d done it when he was alive because he was a good guy and was always humble. But I didn’t, so wanted to do something now.

"I finally thought about that documentary. I’ve never seen it. A lot of people haven’t, so I’m excited.

"Dayton has had a lot of great basketball players over the years. Some were really good ball-handlers. Some could shoot the lights out. Other could rebound or were great on defense or they were really quick.

“Dwight was all of them.”

Copeland has seven children — ranging in ages from 39 to 11½ — and he said they, like almost all young people in Dayton, have "no Idea just how good Dwight Anderson was on the court.

"That’s what I hope to do Sunday. I want to honor Dwight’s name and help other people facing some of the things he was, and I especially want people to get a chance to see who the man really was

“I want them to see just how special Dwight Anderson was.”

He wants them to feel a little of what he did, way back in the sixth grade, when he peered off the balcony at The Blur.

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