“Went to bed at 4, did a phone interview at 6. Half way through the phone interview, I realized I wasn't talking to my mom. I was so out of it.”
Making the half-court shot was the continuation of a string of good luck for Hill, then a counselor at Britton Elementary. First, he won the tickets to that game through an NCAA Tournament bracket contest on Power 103.5 FM. Then, the Thunder game just happened to fall on girlfriend Niki's birthday.
“I've never practiced on half-court shots. When I played basketball in high school (at Douglass) ... I shot threes a lot and I practiced on my three-point shot, but I never sat and shot three-point shots.
“My main thing was just focusing on the rim. Before he even gave me the ball, I zoomed in on the rim. I just made sure I aimed at that.
“I lost my mind after that ball sank. I found myself on the Thunder's bench. I don't even remember running over there.
“I got some bills paid up and paid off some student loans, and I actually went on a vacation. Then I ended up going back to school. I'm in the grad program at OU now.
“I think the shot kind of kick-started me to go back to school. It made me think, ‘If I can hit that $20,000 shot, I can do anything I put my mind to.' With that master's in human relations, it also helps out with my LPC, which is licensed professional counselor, and that's my main goal. I've got to impact the community, especially the community that I come from, the environment that I was raised in. Those kids feel like they don't have an outlet, they feel like there's no hope, so I feel like it's my responsibility to go back and let them know that they can do anything.
“I know how hard it is because I know how hard it was for me to make it to where I am. The chances were slim to none — they were just as slim as me hitting that shot.”
Rodriguez looked every bit like a former high school basketball standout from Elk City when he nailed the half-court shot. Trouble was, he was also a current college basketball player at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. NAIA rules prohibited him from taking the $20,000 winnings, a rule that he appealed and won.
“I'm a shooter. That's what I do. I feel pretty comfortable with the ball in my hands shooting it. I tried to keep my form as much as possible. I tried to shoot it like a real shot. I guess it worked.
“I found out that it might be a problem (to keep the money) that night as soon as my coach found out. He saw it on Twitter. He called me. He was like, ‘Man, that's awesome. I'm so happy for you, but don't take it tonight. We want to make sure you're not going to lose your eligibility.'
“My first thought was, ‘If I don't get this, worse case it's going to go a charity, and I'll still have all the photos and all the memories and all the articles and everything else to remember it.' That was more worth it to me than the money was.
“The next day, I sat down with my head coach and athletic director, and we kind of threw some ideas around. I told my coach and my AD whether I got the money outright or not, I was going to use it for school. Me and my coach were like, ‘Wonder if they'd do a scholarship where you don't take the money and MidFirst gives it to you as a scholarship.'
“We talked to the NAIA and the guy who was helping us, and he said, ‘Well, that's actually kind of a good idea. The few people that stuff like this happened to before ... they all tried to appeal to just try to get the cash.'
“I think it all worked out. I think God has a reason for everything.”
Brucker is a high school coach at Piedmont, but he's way more comfortable using his feet, head or forearms. Soccer and volleyball are his sports, but he's a huge Thunder fan. He got a chance to shoot the half-court shot because he left work late and wanted to find a hot dog.
“This guy kind of tugs on my arm and says, ‘Hey, man, do you shoot baskets?' I'm like, ‘Nope.' We were walking past all the people that are trying to sell you stuff. I'd just done a section in my business class about not giving your personal information at places like the Thunder game because of identity theft reasons.
“Britney kind of grabs my arm. She says, ‘Brad, I think this is for the $20,000 half-court shot.'
“Don't step over the line and just throw it down at the white square on the backboard. That's all I was thinkin'. At no moment did I think it was going in — until it splashed in.
“Of course, then the whole Jay Z thing happened.
“I walked over and shook his hand, and he kind of pulled me in for a hug. I wanted to shake hands with Beyoncé, too, but I went over to shake his hand and she kind of stepped back. I didn't want to be trucked by their security.
“The secretaries (at school) were just getting bombarded. Yahoo! Sports. TMZ Sports. ESPN Radio. My assistant principal who'd just won assistant principal of the year, he was like, ‘Why don't you just take my office?' He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, I've got some phone calls to return, too, but the Piedmont Gazette can wait.'
“I was the first person in my family to graduate college, and it took me 10 years and a lot of student loans. I don't want the same thing for my children. This gives me an opportunity to actually invest and maybe go a ways in helping them not have student loans.”