Dec. 8, 2010
by Pete Spiewak '10
In October, Saint Joseph's University inducted nine members into the SJU Athletics Hall of Fam. Among those in the ninth induction class was Tony Costner, a men's basketball standout that dominated the paint for the Hawks from 1980-84.
A graduate of nearby Overbrook High School, where he led his school to a 68-1 record over his junior and senior seasons, Costner, a talented all-around forward, entered Saint Joseph's as a highly-touted recruit that helped make up one of the best recruiting classes in the history of the school.
Costner, who was the Philadelphia Public League Most Valuable Player as a senior at Overbrook, bolstered a frontcourt that already featured star forward Boo Williams. He was joined by another freshman, Lonnie McFarlan, who was the city's Catholic League Most Valuable Player and a McDonald's All-American. Along with McFarlan, Costner would give the Hawks an immediate boost, helping produce one of the most unforgettable seasons in Saint Joseph's history.
It didn't take long for Costner to get acclimated to the college game. The 6-foot-10 power forward scored 10.0 points per game as a freshman during the 1980-81 season while grabbing 6.8 rebounds.
Under head coach Jim Lynam, the Hawks cruised to an impressive 19-7 regular season record before winning the East Coast Conference title and earning a NCAA Tournament berth.
Costner would lead the #9-seeded Hawks to a victory in the first round, as Saint Joseph's edged Creighton, 59-57, in Dayton, Ohio. Costner posted 18 points and 11 rebounds in the winning effort. Unfortunately for Costner and the Hawks, their run would presumably come to an end in the second round, as they faced off with #1 seed and the number one team in the nation, DePaul, which boasted National Player of the Year Mark Aguirre and future NBA Rookie of the Year Terry Cummings.
But the Hawks didn't lay down for the Blue Demons; in fact, they challenged DePaul. Utilizing Lynam's "Four to Score" offense, Saint Joseph's shocked Aguirre, the Blue Demons, and the nation, when they knocked off the country's best team at the buzzer, 49-48, in maybe the most memorable game in the history of Saint Joseph's basketball. Costner, an East Coast Conference All-Rookie selection that season, contributed 11 points in the low scoring affair.
The Hawks would fall short of the Final Four, losing to Indiana in the regional final, but Costner's career took off after his strong freshman season, as the Philadelphia native would reach stardom in the coming years.
As a sophomore, the power forward would help the Hawks win 25 games for the second straight season, averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his second year. He established himself as an elite big man, while the team returned to the NCAA Tournament after rolling through the East Coast Conference with a 10-1 record, and sweeping its three conference tournament games under new head coach Jim Boyle.
Costner continued to improve during his final two seasons on Hawk Hill, building off of his spectacular first two seasons.
Despite an uncharacteristic 15-13 record for the Hawks in the 1982-83 season, Costner produced big numbers as a junior, nearly averaging a double-double, as he scored 15.2 points per game and brought down 9.3 rebounds per contest on his way to being named first-team All-Atlantic 10 and earning honorable mention All-American honors.
During his senior campaign, he would treat Saint Joseph's fans to one of the two greatest scoring displays in the history of the storied program. Costner posted 47 points when the Hawks demolished Alaska-Anchorage, 106-54, tying a school record for points scored in the game.
More importantly, Costner, in his second season as team captain, would lead the Hawks back to the postseason in the 1983-84 season. Saint Joseph's went 20-9 that season, the third time the Hawks won 20 or more games during his four years, and the first time they earned a berth to the NIT.
In the 101 years of basketball at Saint Joseph's, only a couple of big men who have donned the Crimson and Gray have compiled resumes comparable to Costner.
Ranked fifth on Saint Joseph's all-time scoring list, Costner scored 1,730 points during his time on Hawk Hill, which, at the time of his graduation, was the more than any other player. He managed to grab 951 rebounds over four years, which ranks him seventh in Hawk history. The Philadelphia native is one of just four players in the history of the program to post 1,700+ points and 900+ rebounds in his career, along with Cliff Anderson, Ahmad Nivins and Norman Black. He is currently one of two Hawks to appear on the top-10 lists for career points, rebounds and blocked shots.
For four seasons, Saint Joseph's leaned heavily on Costner, who did it all for the Hawks. He was a double-digit scorer and standout rebounder and defender who never took a day off. Costner holds the Saint Joseph's record for consecutive starts, with 120.
Following his career at Saint Joseph's, Costner was taken by the Washington Bullets with the 10th pick of the second round of the NBA Draft in 1984, making him one of nine Hawks to be chosen in the first two rounds of the draft.
Costner would go on to have a successful 12-year career overseas, where he is ranked in the top 10 in career rebounds and blocks in the Greek A1 League.
The Costner name has continued on in college basketball as Tony's oldest son, Brandon, was a McDonald's All-American at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey and a standout power forward at North Carolina State, while his other son, Jordan, currently plays at Saint Peter's College.
Inducted into the Saint Joseph's Men's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1990, Costner now has earned the distinction of being a member of the Saint Joseph's Athletics Hall of Fame, where he joins the most elite group of athletes in the history of the school -- a well-deserved honor for one of the all-time best players to ever step onto the hardwood at 54th and City.