After he made a 70-foot shot at the buzzer to seal a 66-65 win for UC Riverside at Arizona State on Thursday night, JP Moorman II sent his friend a message: "This is because of you."
That friend is Chris Paul.
The Phoenix Suns All-Star met with UC Riverside -- a Big West school that considered eliminating athletics a year ago to save money -- for 45 minutes prior to their upset over the Sun Devils.
Moorman, a Greensboro, North Carolina native, met Paul when he played on his grassroots squad, CP3 All-Stars. While Paul mentored him in the past, he said now they're more like friends. When he landed in Phoenix for Thursday's game, he asked Paul if he might have some time to talk to the team.
"It kind of worked out where I hit him up when we landed and asked him what he had going on after his game and he told me he was going to [STK Steakhouse] and asked if I wanted to come," Moorman said. "I told him to hit me in the morning and maybe you could come by and speak to the team. He said, 'All right, just let me know where you're staying.' The rest is history."
Shortly before the team's pregame shootaround, Paul arrived.
He talked to the players about brotherhood, focus and the tools he's used in his Hall of Fame career. An energized shootaround followed.
"It was a beautiful 45 minutes for a coach," UC-Riverside Mike Magpayo said. "I sat down and I enjoyed every second of it. He talked about leadership. He talked about the energy you need to have. ... [Moorman] brought Chris Paul in and these guys' eyes lit up. I told these guys I wish these guys looked at me the way they look at Chris Paul when he walked into the room."
Hours later, Moorman would make one of the biggest shots in school history.
Before each game, Moorman will not go back to the locker room until he makes at least one half-court shot. His 70-footer on Thursday, however, demanded some maneuvering. He had to dodge a defender, spin near the baseline and launch the shot at an awkward angle.
"I felt the defender -- he started taking those hard steps to the left -- and I felt it," Moorman said. "I knew I was going to be able to spin to the right and get a clean look."
That shot -- and that game -- seemed unlikely for UC Riverside last year when the school announced it would consider cutting all sports for financial reasons during the pandemic. The athletics department launched a social media campaign and asked prominent alumni to express their support through videos. It also created a plan to save money.
In May, the school announced that it had saved its athletic programs and would not be eliminating any sports.
Wesley Mallette, the UC Riverside athletic director who helped put together the plan to preserve the sports programs at UC Riverside, was sitting behind the team bench on Thursday night when Moorman hit the shot.
He joined the players in the emotional celebration that followed the win.
Also, he said Moorman's shot sums up the unpredictable last year for UC Riverside.
"When it left [Moorman's] hands, if you look at the arc of that, that was September 2020 when nobody had any idea what was going to happen," Mallette said. "As it kind of moved through the air and we were building our strategy ... things became a lot clearer into the focus. As the shot was on the downward side, making its way into the basket, that was us knowing the strategy we had in place. When it went through the hoop that was May 6, 2021, when [athletics] announced it would move forward. That shot was symbolic of so many things that are near and dear to my heart."
Moorman said when he texted Paul after the game and thanked him, the NBA All-Star sent a few emojis with the message, "Yessir!"
Making the victory even sweeter, the Highlanders were paid $85,000 by Arizona State for the "buy" game.
Moorman said he wants to use this game to build momentum for UC Riverside, which is coming off a 14-8 season.
"It's one game, it's one shot, is the way I look at it," he said. "It definitely wasn't a regular shot but at the same time, so many things had to happen in that game to get to that point."