BYU setter Wil Stanley is a senior starter currently second in the country in assists per set on the No. 2-ranked team in men’s college volleyball.
But he doesn’t even think he’s the most popular Stanley in the gym.
“People come up to me and ask if I know Jon,” Will Stanley said. “I’ve been here for four years, Jon’s been here for two, and they see me as Jon’s brother. He is the fan child of all of BYU volleyball. He is a ray of sunshine and it’s so great to have on this team.”
Jon Stanley — listed as an outside hitter/libero — redshirted his first season in Provo but obviously made an impression on Cougar fans. On Jan. 10, BYU hosted No. 15 Penn State in the team’s home opener. Late in the first set, Jon Stanley made his first appearance as a Cougar as a serving specialist.
It was as if a rock star had walked into the Smith Fieldhouse as the home fans erupted into applause and screaming.
“The ROC section was amazing,” Jon Stanley said. “The rest of the crowd was probably like, ‘Who even knows this guy?’ I had chicken skin when I first walked on the court. I heard the ROC section go off, and then the crowd go off, and the people behind me go off. It was so surreal that it was happening.”
Late in Set 3, Jon Stanley served the first ace of his career for a 23-21 lead to set up what would become a three-set sweep.
While reporters gathered around BYU coach Shawn Olmstead after the match, Jon Stanley emerged from the locker room to more cheers and adulation.
“I like to see a lot of people after the games,” Jon Stanley said. “I try to be friends with everyone who comes out to the matches. I feel so grateful they come to watch us play volleyball and spend their time supporting us. They’re going through this journey with us so the least we could do is talk to them, interact with them, take pictures with them and thank them for coming out.”
The Stanley name is synonymous with volleyball. Wil and Jon’s grandparents played international volleyball for Canada. Their father, John C. Stanley, played for Team USA in the 1968 Olympics. Their older brother, Clay Stanley, played in four Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012) and made history when he and his father became the first father-son Olympians in USA volleyball history.
Wil Stanley came to BYU in 2017 and sat behind All-American setter Leo Durkin for two seasons. In 2019, Wil stepped into a starting role and performed well. In 13 matches, Stanley averaged 9.52 assists per set in leading the Cougars to an 8-4 record. But he was injured against Stanford on Feb. 28.
“I fractured my ankle in two places,” Wil Stanley said. “I also had a sports hernia on my left and right abdominal muscles. I did that in the first match of the season but I was going to play through that and get surgery at the end of the year. But when we saw the x-rays for my ankle, the doctor said, ‘You’re done.’ So I had surgery about two weeks after the fracture and didn’t do anything until about mid-May.”
Wil Stanley spent all spring and summer in Provo, rehabbing from the injury and learning how to take better care of his body to combat the rigors of collegiate level volleyball.
“We’ve seen a shift in Wil,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “A lot of that comes with experience. He saw the value of just getting himself in a little better shape even before the fall training block started. He was so competitive in all our off-season conditioning. Every single one of them he would do what we wanted out of a leader. He was in the weight room all summer, getting groups together. He’s done a really good job and we can see it’s going to be important for us to keep him healthy.”
Due to family circumstances, Jon and Wil didn’t attend the same high school in Hawaii, with Jon going to Kaiser and Wil to Punahou. Though they both played for Outrigger Canoe Club volleyball, because of their age difference (Wil is two years older) they never played on the same team until they were both at BYU.
“Jon comes into every day with a positive attitude,” Wil Stanley said. “Even though he didn’t play last year, fans saw him cheering on the sideline. He put so much energy into that and talking to fans. He knows everybody at BYU. He’s a fan favorite and everyone loves him. Seeing him go out there and serve an ace was awesome. He’s a pop star on this team. How loud this place got when he served that ace, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
“People are going to be drawn to him even more the next home game. It’s going to be even louder since more people will know who he is and know his personality. He’s a great dude, a ball of sunshine.”
There is a fan who sits in the bleachers at BYU men’s volleyball matches and places a card on the railing every time the Cougars serve an ace. John Stanley said that fan signed his ace card, framed it and gave it to him.
“I love making friends with people,” Jon Stanley said. “Anyone I see I try to be friends with them because you never know if you’re ever going to see them again. You can make their day. Being friends with everybody is one of my attributes. I want to make them feel welcome.”
Jon Stanley said friends and family back in Hawaii flooded his social media accounts, congratulating him on his big night. He said he hopes there are plenty of big nights for BYU volleyball this season.
“This year is a whole new feeling, a whole new vibe for the team,” Jon Stanley said. “Our mind set is always on what we want to achieve this year. We have a clear path for what we want to do and that’s work harder and better every day. As a team our goal is to win a national championship. Me being able to play a role by coming in to serving is something I’ll always remember.”