CHANNING TONEY has basketball in his DNA and Birmingham in his bones. The son of Andrew Toney, a Magic City native and former Philadelphia 76er, Channing played the first two years of his college career at the University of Georgia. The move to UAB was a homecoming of sorts, but first he had to sit out one full season due to NCAA transfer rules. “It was tougher than I thought it would be,” says Toney. “I knew I would have to sit for a year, and I looked forward to that as a chance to get in shape and get my game back. But as time went on and all I could do was watch, it was frustrating. I could see there were opportunities where I could help the team.”
Once he was allowed back on the court, Toney made the most of those opportunities, shooting a team-high 42 percent from three-point range during Conference USA play last season and averaging more than 10 points per game. This fall, Toney began his first full season at UAB as one of six returning seniors from last year’s 23-11 team, which finished second in the conference. That group has several talented guards, including all-conference standouts Robert Vaden, who rewrote the school’s single-season scoring records last year, and Paul Delaney III, who led the team in scoring in 2007 before sitting out last season with a knee injury. But even if there is what Toney calls “healthy competition” for playing time, he won’t get caught up in comparisons to his teammates.
After all, he’s lived with such comparisons his whole life. “People say my dad and I have a lot of similarities in the way we shoot the ball and in our quickness,” Toney says. “But he was one of the all-time greats. It would be hard for me to live up to that. Instead, I just concentrate on my role and on what I can accomplish.
“I knew when I came to UAB that I was going to be playing with one of the best guards in the country in Robert Vaden. Watching him at the start of last year, I knew I could play an important role if I could score some points and take some of the defensive attention away from him. It doesn’t matter if I’m the second, third, or fourth-leading scorer if I’m helping the team. If I’m efficient on offense and can improve my defense, then I know I can help the team succeed.”