This week is the 15-year anniversary of Bryce Drew's legendary game-winning shot in Oklahoma City, one of the most famous plays in NCAA Basketball Tournament history.
Drew's last-second 3-pointer lifted No. 13 seeded Valparaiso to a 70-69 first-round upset of Mississippi at the Myriad, now known as the Cox Convention Center.
“I get asked about that play quite a bit, especially in March,” said Bill Jenkins, the middle man who shoveled the pass to Drew. “They keep showing the play every year as one of the top buzzer-beaters of all time.”
What sets Drew's shot apart from other buzzer-beaters was Valpo's perfect execution of three elements on a play called Pacer — Jamie Sykes' three-quarter-court inbounds pass, Jenkins' in-air touch pass and Drew's on-the-run 22-footer.
It was a play the Crusaders ran many times in practice.
“We got tired of running it,” Jenkins said. “We'd say, ‘Coach, we're never going to use that play. Can we go hit the showers?'”
Valpo actually ran Pacer earlier that season against Western Illinois, but Drew never touched the ball. Center Antanas Vilcinskas fumbled the long inbounds pass. The following week, coach Homer Drew inserted Jenkins in the hook-and-lateral role.
“It almost never worked in practice, even when we ran it against no defense, five-on-none,” Sykes said. “I have small hands. A lot of times I'd throw a curveball. Or Bill's timing would be off jumping up catching it high.”
Jenkins said, “If we used it in a game we never expected it to work because we knew it would be almost impossible with a real defense out there.”
That's why Valpo's play is one of the most magical moments in NCAA history.
Sykes, a 5-foot-11 guard who was an outfielder in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, pump-faked to get 6-foot-4 Ole Miss guard Keith Carter in the air so he could throw an on-target, 60-foot inbounds pass to Jenkins.
Jenkins, closely guarded, leapt above two Rebel defenders, grabbed the ball with both hands, turned and shoveled the ball to Drew, who was running down the right sideline.
Drew stepped into the shot, drained it and was dogpiled by teammates.
Continue reading this story on the...