Drew relives ‘The Shot’
Bryce Drew has lived nearly as many days since “The Shot” as before it but the perpetuity of his buzzer-beating NCAA tournament game-winner never stops blowing up his phone every March.
The new Grand Canyon head coach takes helm of the Lopes in hopes of guiding them to their Big Dance, a March Madness that is synonymous with the “The Shot” that Drew made for a Valparaiso upset win in March of 1998.
For the 22nd year, Drew relishes reliving the iconic moment along with the rest of the college basketball world.
“It was such a blessing to have it all unfold how it did,” Drew said. “It’s such a fond memory that if I can use it as a platform to inspire/encourage others, I’m excited about that.”
Drew was playing his senior season at Valparaiso, which was coached by his father, Hall of Fame legend Homer, and had his older brother, now-Baylor head coach Scott, as an assistant coach.
The Crusaders reached the NCAA tournament during Drew’s sophomore and junior seasons and lost in the first round each time but he was one of six seniors who envisioned more for the 1997-98 team. With Drew suffering an early-season leg injury, Valparaiso hobbled to a 9-8 record but won its next 11 games and captured the Mid-Continent (now Summit) Conference Tournament title and a NCAA bid.
Valparaiso earned a No. 13 seed and was matched up with Midwest Regional No. 4 seed, Mississippi, which was ranked 10th nationally with a 22-5 record. The Crusaders had a rough preparation week with a blizzard hitting campus and Drew sitting out practices for a hamstring injury but they liked the 11 a.m. tip time in Oklahoma City, figuring they were more accustomed to odd start times.
Drew was in hot tub at 6 a.m. on game day to loosen the hamstring, not knowing he would need one last sprint and jump in the game’s 40th minute.
“The Shot” would not have been as dramatic if Drew had made it with five seconds remaining. With Mississippi leading 69-67, Drew missed a wide-open 3 from the left wing and Valparaiso had to foul SEC Player of the Year Anyu Sesay with 4.1 seconds to go.
Drew walked toward the other free-throw line deep in thought.
“One point of view could’ve been I just missed the last shot of my career, a wide-open shot, that could’ve won us the game, but there was a really a peace about the next play,” Drew said. “The whole thing was a blur from that point on to until I got up off the floor after we were celebrating the victory.”
Fortunately, the next few moments have been replayed thousands of times for his recollection, including one YouTube video with 348,000 views.
Sesay, a 74% free throw shooter, missed the first free throw and Valparaiso called time out to set up a play. That play went out the window when Sesay also missed the second free throw with the rebound caroming out of bounds (arguably off a Crusader) to change the amount of time and inbound point for Valpo.
Out of time outs, some Crusaders players began yelling out “Pacer,” a play borrowed from the Indiana Pacers that Valpo practiced often and used once in a game … without the ball getting to the shooter.
Jamie Sykes was the baseline corner inbounder at 5 feet 11 but with a big arm as an outfielder who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 11th round in 1997. He pump-faked the defender into the air and then threw a three-quarter court pass to Bill Jenkins, a former volleyball standout with a 40-inch vertical leap.
Jenkins outleaped two Rebels, caught and delivered a touch pass in the air to Drew, who had darted toward the inbounder to get a step ahead of his defender streaking down the right sideline. Drew caught and fired a leaning 23-foot shot that he and his father, standing behind him with arms folded, thought was going to land short.
“A miracle! An absolute miracle!” CBS play-by-play announcer Ted Robinson screamed upon Drew making the shot at the buzzer for a 70-69 upset win.
Drew turned and dived onto the floor at the 3-point line, where the player dogpile ensued.
“Thank you Jesus!” Drew screamed from beneath it.
The team returned to its accommodations at an Oklahoma City Holiday Inn and marveled that its highlights were on ESPN throughout the night, not knowing “The Shot” would be replayed for basketball eternity.
“I didn’t even know I dived on the floor until I saw the video,” Drew said this week. “It’s pretty amazing. It just shows that you go from being a goat to a hero in four seconds. If they make the free throws and we lose, the lasting impression for my college career is a missed wide-open 3-pointer. Oh my goodness, for all the hours that I practiced that shot too.”
The game was the last one at Mississippi for Rob Evans, who became Arizona State’s coach. Valparaiso used the momentum of its first NCAA tournament victory to win again in the second round, defeating Florida State in overtime to become America’s Cinderella Sweet 16 team. The joyride ended with Drew scoring 18 in a 74-68 loss to Rhode Island.
Article by Paul Coro – Grand Canyon University Athletics