Induction Year: 1992
When Southwestern Louisiana revived its basketball program in 1975 after the National Collegiate Athletic Association put the Rajin’ Cajuns out of business for a couple of years, the Lafayette school needed a superstar to return to the fast lane.
Andrew Toney of Birmingham, Ala., turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The 6-3, 190-pound product of Birmingham’s Glenn High School picked up where Dwight “Bo” Lamar left off, averaging 21 points per game as a freshman and 26.1 in his senior season.
His 107-game career was 2,526 points, an average of 23.6 per game. The point total was good enough for second place on the school list behind Lamar’s 3,493.
In his senior year, Toney led Coach Bobby Paschal’s Cajuns to a 21-9 record and the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
How valuable was Toney? He missed four games in 1979-80 because of injuries and one more because he had to leave the team on the West Coast for his graduation – a feat accomplished in 3 1/2 years. The Rajin’ Cajuns were 21-4 with Toney in the lineup and 0-5 without him.
The Philadelphia 76ers chose Toney in the first round of the 1980 National Basketball Association draft – making him the eighth player selected overall.
In his third NBA season, he averaged 19.7 points per game in helping the 76ers win their first NBA title in 16 years.
Toney was selected to play in the NBA All-Star game in both 1983 and 1984. In the 1983-83 season, he had a career high scoring average of 20.4 points per game.
The most important aspect of his play in the 1982-83-championship season wasn’t how many points he scored, but when he scored them. He earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s best clutch shooters, and was especially tough against the Boston Celtics. That’s how he picked up the “Boston Strangler” moniker.
“When we play Boston or Los Angeles, I don’t treat them any differently than the rest of the teams in the league,” Toney said. “I try to maintain the same intensity level for every game. You don’t get extra credit for beating special teams during the regular season, so I play them all the same way.”
In eight seasons with the 76ers, Toney scored a total of 7,458 points in regular-season play and 1,254 more in the playoffs. His career average in the regular season was 15.9 points per game, and he hit 50 percent of his field goal attempts – a remarkable figure for a guard who did most of his shooting from outside.
In the playoffs, however, he was able to life his game to a higher level. In 72 playoffs games spread over six seasons, he averaged 17.4 points per game.
“The playoffs are something different,” Toney acknowledged. “Everything you’ve worked for since training camp in October now comes down to a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. That’s when you have to be able to crank it up.”
In the championship season, the 76ers scored a four-game sweep in the final series with Pat Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“Toney is probably the toughest clutch shooter in the league today,” Riley said. “He is just impervious to pressure.”
“That was the highlight of my basketball career,” Toney recalled. “We had been there before, and came away empty. When you win the championship, that says it all.”
Toney was never reluctant to take crucial shots in the finals seconds of close games, regardless of what he had done earlier. “I’ll take it, no matter what,” he said. “You can’t be worried about what you’ve missed, because a basket in the clutch makes all the misses fade away.”
He gave “Doctor J” Erving credit for his quick adjustment to life in the NBA. “He took me under his wing when I first got to Philadelphia, and he showed me the ropes and showed me a lot of things about the NBA that I benefited from,” Toney said. “He’s a first class, classy guy.”
A chronic heel injury sidelined Toney for most of two seasons near the end of his career.
“I was in pain,” Toney recalled. “I was just trying to get my wheels back later. Any time I made shifting moves as far as distributing my weight from one side to another, I had a lot of pain.”
When he retired after the 1987-88 season, Toney’s salary was in the neighborhood of $800,000 a year.
As a high school senior in Birmingham, Toney averaged 37 points per game and was named “Mr. Basketball” in Alabama. He averaged 31 points per game as a junior, and was named to All-America teams both of his last two years.
Toney, who also participated in baseball and track, helped Glenn High’s Hawks chalk up an 80-14 record in his last three years.
Alabama recruited Robert “Rah Rah” Scott, another blue-chip guard prospect in Birmingham who went on to win All-Southeastern Conference honors in 1980. Both Alabama and Auburn attempted to recruit Toney. But he wanted to check out life outside Alabama, and chose Southwestern Louisiana.
“I believe he’s the best shooting guard to come out of high school anywhere,” USL coach Jim Hatfield said when Toney signed with the Cajuns. “We’re expecting great things of him.”
Toney lived up to the great expectations by setting nine school records and scoring 46 points three times. One of his 46-point games helped the Cajuns beat Auburn 92-75 for their fourth straight Bayou Classic Championship. Although most of his shots were from long range, Toney hit 56 percent or better from the floor in two of his four seasons at USL.
During his four years of eligibility, Cajun teams coached by Hatfield and Paschal averaged nearly 20 victories per season in bringing big-time basketball back to Lafayette – and this time, the school did it without incurring the wrath of the NCAA.
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