Of all the random skills you can develop during high school gym class downtime -- from scrambling to finish neglected problem sets to dunking on an eight-foot rim; they are legion -- the ability to make a reasonable percentage of half-court shots has to be the most underrated. There is a lucrative sub-economy surrounding half-court shots; win the right lottery at the right school (or when College Gameday comes to town) and you could change your life in a matter of seconds.
And yet, so many people picked to shoot for prizes arrive at their moment lacking the basic skills they need to succeed. They try to heave the ball from a standstill. They chuck it over their shoulder like a shot-put. They never took the time to learn the proper running one-legged form, and they don't even give themselves a chance. As someone who sees a fair number of half-court promotions, it's never not massively frustrating.
Ball State freshman Markus Burden, a native of Frankfort, Ill., is not one one of these people. At Ball State's "Welcome Week" festivities this weekend, Burden was selected to shoot for a free semester of tuition, and after a couple of misses, this happened:
The Indianapolis Star has some good detail from Burden himself, who said he wanted to win the tuition for his mom -- who didn't believe her son until his friend sent her photographic evidence. The win notches Burden a semester of out-of-state tuition priced at $11,084, a huge relief for any family staring down those unfathomable bursar bills every month. "“It just gives us a lot of breathing room right now,” Burden told the Star.
But I want to focus on another part of the story. As the Indy Star writes:
He didn’t play basketball for his high school team but often hit the court with friends, goofing around with half-court and trick shots.
See? The perfect form in that YouTube clip wasn't an accident. Nor was it the product of a high school basketball career. Burden put in the hard, tireless work of half-court shot practice long before he ever knew he'd need that arrow in his quiver. He arrived at his moment ready.
Let that be a lesson to every high-schooler in the country: If you work really hard and attempt to master this seemingly pointless craft, one day you too can will have an infinitesimal chance of winning a free semester of tuition. And if your gym teachers tell you to stop flinging the ball at the rim from 50 feet away, tell them you're just trying to better yourself, and if they have a problem with that ... well, actually, you should listen to them, because they can probably give you detention. High school's kind of a bummer that way.