Don May

16 Mar

Don May scores over Lew Alcindor in the 1967 NCAA championship game.

The first post to this blog centers on all-time University of Dayton great Don May. May played at UD from 1965 to 1967, leading the Flyers to the 1967 NCAA championship game and the 1968 NIT title. A 6-4 forward, he was a consensus second-team All-American in both 1967 and 1968.

Don May was born January 3, 1946, in Dayton. It seems he was destined to attend his hometown school, for not only did UD have a long tradition of successful teams, but as a youth May delivered a Dayton newspaper to the dorms at UD.  He attended Belmont High School and was part of what Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy (a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame) calls “the best high school basketball team I ever saw.” May was a key component of Belmont’s 1964 state championship team, playing alongside Bill Hosket, who would go on to become an All-American at Ohio State. Belmont lost only one game that season and cruised its way to the state title, winning its state semifinal and final games by 24 and 29 points, respectively.

Entering UD in the fall of 1964,  May joined a powerhouse team led by 7-foot center Henry Finkel, a third-team All-American in 1965-66. May averaged 20.3 points and 11.4 rebounds that year (Finkel went for 22.7 and 12.1) as UD went to the NCAA Tournament. There, the Flyers defeated Miami 58-51 in the first round before losing to Kentucky 86-79 in the Mideast Regional semifinal. Finkel went to the NBA, drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, but it turns out Don May was just getting started.

Dayton started the 1966-67 ranked 13th in the UPI poll and spent the season falling out of and bouncing back into the rankings. They ended the regular season 21-5, losing twice to a powerful Louisville squad that was ranked #2 and #3 when it defeated the Flyers. May earned second-team All-America honors by virtue of his averaging 22.2 points and 16.7 rebounds (good for fifth in the nation). Entering the NCAA Tournament, UD defeated the sixth-ranked Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the first round 69-67 in overtime, overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit. May played all 45 minutes, scoring 26 points and pulling down 20 rebounds. Next up: the eighth-ranked Volunteers of Tennessee, led by  the beefy Tom Boerwinkle and Ron Widby. The Flyers eked out a 53-52 win, with May struggling to a 9-point, 14-rebound effort. In the Mideast Regional final, Dayton squeaked by again, nipping a Virginia Tech team 71-66 in overtime. The Hokies led 62-52 late in the second half, but the Flyers rallied to force OT. May shined with a 28/16 game and won the Regional’s Most Outstanding Player award.

With that victory, Dayton was in its first and only Final Four, and Don May played a game for the ages against fourth-ranked North Carolina in the semifinal. May scored over, under, and around defenders Larry Miller (second-team All-American) and Rusty Clark, en route to sinking thirteen straight field goals (he made 16 of his 22 attempts for the game). May finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Flyers had a relatively easy time (for a change), winning 76-62.

In the final game, Dayton was overmatched by the undefeated, Lew Alcindor-led UCLA Bruins. Here’s Jim Savage in The Encyclopedia of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, pg. 278:

The score was only 5-0 after 3:24; it was still only 8-4 after seven minutes. Four minutes later, with the score 20-4, Dayton finally got its third field goal when Alcindor was called for goaltending (he already had four clean blocks to his credit). The score was 76-47 UCLA when the last Bruin starter went to the bench, allowing the Flyers to close the margin to a respectable 79-64 by the end of the game.

May finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, but he shot only 9 of 23 from the field; for the game, the Flyers were a woeful 34% on their FG attempts. Still, May was named to the All-Tournament Team for 1966.

Fans expected great things from the 1967-68 Flyer squad, and why not?  The team had its best player and most of the rest of the roster back, and it had gone to the Final Four the previous year. Voters agreed, ranking UD sixth in the preseason polls. But the Flyers got off to a more than rocky start; after 16 games, their record stood at a embarrassing  7-9. Led by May and Bobby Joe Hooper, the team got hot, reeling off 10 straight wins to finish the season 17-9 and earning an NIT berth. Playing at Madison Square Garden, which was in the first year of its current configuration, the Flyers rolled over West Virginia, sneaked by Fordham and Notre Dame (the latter in OT), and won their second NIT title in seven years over a Kansas team led by All-American Jo Jo White, 61-48. May was named the MVP of the tournament.

For the 1967-68 season, May averaged 23.4 points and 15.0 rebounds and earned second-team All-American honors for the second year in a row.

May was chosen  by the Knicks in the third round of the 1968 draft but found it hard to get much playing time on a team with forwards like Bill Bradley and Dave Debusschere, though he did get a ring as a member of the Knicks’ 1970 NBA championship squad (as did his old Belmont teammate Hosket). After that season, May was selected by the Buffalo Braves in the expansion draft, and in 1970-71, he was a starter for the new franchise. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in about 35 minutes a game for the Braves–who promptly traded him to the Atlanta Hawks after the season. This began the vagabond phase of May’s pro career; he played for three teams in the next four years, never approaching the output he had with Buffalo. Over his eight-year NBA career, May averaged 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds a game. He retired after the 1974-75 season.

May was elected to the University of Dayton Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974 and to the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Don May was the best player in the history of the University of Dayton basketball. Henry Finkel may have averaged more points per game, Bill Uhl may have averaged more rebounds per game, and Roosevelt Chapman may have scored more points in his career–but May is still the greatest Flyer of all time. (ESPN’s College Basketball Encyclopedia named Chapman UD’s greatest player. With all due respect — um, no.) His 1,980 points are second in school history, as are his 1,301 rebounds.  And he did all this as a 6-foot-4 power forward. With no three-point line. His jumping ability was outstanding, but May was especially noted for his “bounce,” the ability to jump quickly and well two or three times in a row. He was an outstanding shooter both from the field and the line. May was one of only three Flyers ever to earn All-American honors twice.  But most importantly, May led Dayton to its two best back-to-back seasons: its only Final Four and an NIT title. Statistical greatness and team success–those are what make Don May the greatest Flyer ever.


Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Players


19 responses to “Don May

  1. richard

    March 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    if you google “Glenn Ashley and the University of Dayton” you will see a Massena bball player who got a scholarship to Dayton in 1960 (and if I remember correctly, promptly flunked out!)–Sorrell

  2. John Michael

    March 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I work with Dons brother Ken, great people.

    • Larry Hartzell

      March 23, 2011 at 2:17 am


      Kenny was a great UD player, too, but it had to be hard to follow in Don’s footsteps–probably had that problem his whole life!


    • Wendy Atkin

      October 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      My best friend has always been a fan of Don’s and considers him one of his all time favorite players.For Christmas , I would love to get him a signed picture Of Mr. Don Mays. I am not sure if this is at all possible but is there a way you can have someone (his brother) anyone get in contact with me. please. Thanks In Advance. atkin dot wendy at gmail dot come( I posted it this way to avoid spammers)

  3. Larry

    March 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Don May was an amazing player. Your list of great Flyers did not include Donald Smith (RIP), the greatest purer shooter I have ever seen. He was a legend here in Dayton and deserves too be mentioned more as one of Dayton’s basketball greats. I used to go out to Fairmont West High School, in Kettering Ohio, and played games on the outside courts against both May and Smith. What a thrill to play against players of their quality. Good memories.

    • Tom

      December 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Donald Smith, Don May, Roosevelt Chapman, Henry Finkel, Jim Paxson and on and on and on. Unforgettable players all 🙂

      • Larry Lawson

        December 17, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        No way did I meant in any way to disrespect Donald (RIP). I played many summer games at Fairmont West, and Donald played in many of those games. I saw him play in several of the greatest high school games I have ever seen. The Chaminade games were at the old Dayton Fieldhouse were amazing. They reflected the signs of the times, though. Roth’s black fans on one side, and Chaminade’s white fans on the other. The game where Paul Kurpiel tip in the winning basket after a missed free throw was cool as hell despite the fact that i got my ass kicked after the Roth fans rioted and kicked people asses, set fires, and just raised hell for many hours after the game. Didn’t matter to them that i told them as they were kickin my ass that I had been rooting for Roth, Smitty and Lumpkin were the best guard combo I had ever seen on a high school team.

        What stands out to most about the Roth fans was how every time Donald would shoot they would hiss, “Two.” Always thought that was cool. So while I loved May’s overall game, Donald Smith was the greatest pure shooter I have ever seen. Thanks again for reminding me of the little dude’s greatness, Whey Donald was ill and being attended to at Miami Valley, I too was going through a process of having left-shoulder replacement surgery. He and I talked basketball for many hours, The games we all played at FW were our favorite topics. I am 63 and now bedridden with a spinal disease. My high school basketball days in California, and Texas, and the games played in Dayton with so many great players are amongst my favorite memories. Peace, dude. Gad to meet another Flyer and Don Smith fan,

  4. Mike

    March 24, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I knew Don when he was a caddie at Dayton Country Club, he would astound those who dared play in a pick up game with him with his leaping ability. One thing you didn’t mention was Don’s great hook from deep in the corner, who ever shot a hook from the corner. He also had an uncanny ability to get defenders in the air then draw a foul while attempting a jump shot by just leaning into the elivated defender.
    It was indeed a pleasure to have known Don as a friend

  5. Professor Larry

    March 27, 2012 at 3:19 am

    @Larry: My family had season tickets to UD games when Smitty was there — he was my sister’s favorite (I was a Johnny D guy!). I can only imagine what playing with May and Smith must’ve been like — keep those memories!!

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  8. Bob

    November 22, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I played football against Don May in grade school…..he was a helluva halfback.

  9. Tom Gregory

    May 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    God bless Hal McCoy, he was so right about Don May’s Belmont team to this day. Best high school team that should of been undefeated, but with more fouls called against them in that game then they had in any 2 games that year. It was like watching men playing boys that year & coach Ross rested his players when they got a big lead. Watching Don May at UD was amazing, to think he was 2nd team All American 2 years in a row. Remember all those points he scored he did that in 3 years and no he didn’t jump to the pros, freshman couldn’t play varsity & like they said no 3 point line. Everyone has their favorite player but to me Don May played basketball the way it was meant to be played, inteligently, tough, and from baseline to baseline.

  10. M.Kane

    August 9, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Saw May when I entered UD as a freshman in 1967. That season did not start very well, but I have a vivid recollection of the winning streak and beating Fordham , Notre Dame, and Kansas in the NIT. May was one of the greatest leapers I would ever see in a college uniform. UD has had some great players, Chapman and Smith certainly qualify. But May’s game was probably more balanced. He’d get my vote.

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  12. Scott

    March 17, 2018 at 1:43 am

    My earliest basketball memory as a 10-yo kid is my dad sitting on a kitchen chair in the living room (to be closer to the big box B&W TV with an adjustable rabbit ear antenna) watching UD basketball. UD in a nail biter playing for the last shot with time running out versus a Western Kentucky, St. Louis, Detroit, or Cincinnati was infinitely more suspenseful than today’s run and gun game with a shot clock. Dayton and the surrounding area has produced some great athletes: Mike Schmidt, Edwin Moses, Jim and John Paxson, but Donny May is to Dayton sports what Pete Rose is to Cincinnati and baseball. Great memories of a Donald Smith fadeaway jumper, Hank Finkel dunking on an offensive board, Booby Joe Hooper pushing the ball up the court and of course Don May grabbing a board at one end and then muscling up baseline for lay up over taller opponents at the end are etched in my memory.

  13. Gary Willis

    April 6, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Did John Ross continue his coaching career at Springboro High School as the head girls basketball coach?

  14. Scott

    April 6, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Great memories revisited. I was 10 at the time, growing up watching the Flyers. I heard stories of Don May dribbling/running from Belmont to Centerville where I grew up. Don’t know if they are true but will do my part to keep that legend alive. This was the zenith of Dayton basketball without a doubt. Dayton has had a long list of greats – Chapman, Uhl, Finkel, Paxson, Smith, Davis, Sylvester, Meineke, Harris, and Bockhorn to name a few – but any real Flyers fan knows Don May was the greatest Flyer of all.


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