Fewer words in sports create such a visceral reaction. A smile creeps across your face or your eyes fall to the ground; the chills run up your spine or your heart breaks all over again.
Those who love the NBA know it as the jumper a young player named Michael Jordan hit over Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs.
For those who filled out brackets this week in advance of the NCAA Tournament, the phrase means something different – Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer on March 13, 1998 that sent the 13th seeded Valparaiso Crusaders into the second round over No. 4 Ole Miss.
This tournament marks the 15-year anniversary of college basketball’s version of The Shot, which is widely regarded as one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
While Drew has rightfully gotten quite a bit of attention for making the shot, the play doesn’t happen without two other players – Jamie Sykes, and Glendale’s own William Jenkins.
Sykes was the one who inbounded the ball, tossing a half-court length pass to Jenkins, who leapt, caught the ball, turned and passed to Drew in the matter of tenths of a second.
Jenkins has been back in Milwaukee for some time now and is the owner of The DuPlex Milwaukee on Jefferson. He also owned CUSH and Bayou previously.
On this special anniversary of The Shot, OnMilwaukee.com caught up with Jenkins to reminisce a bit.
OnMilwaukee.com: Normally when you come across an anniversary in sports the first question to ask is "Does it feel that long ago?" but in this case, it may not apply because that moment has been replayed in every NCAA Tournament broadcast since it happened. It seems so fresh still.
William Jenkins: I know! And every year I’m reminded how old I am. It’s cool. It was such an awesome play and an awesome time in sports history. I didn’t really realize at the time that it would continue to get some airtime. I think it’s really special that it is. Every year it comes up. I get calls every March.
Have you seen that Axe commercial? That’s pretty cool. I guess there’s another one coming out, an AT&T commercial. I gotta think playing the play is coming to a close when you start doing stuff like that. But every year I keep waiting for another amazing play in sports from an underdog so that we get bumped out or bumped down and it’s just not happening.
OMC: With this being the 15-year anniversary, did you think something like the commercials would happen to commemorate it?
WJ: I really didn’t put much on the year knowing our 10-year anniversary we all went back to Valpo and were honored and that was great. But for these commercials we actually were contacted, so that was the first I heard of it. I didn’t get the details on what the commercial was going to be, just saying we want to use some of the footage from the game, sure, what’s your address? Here it is, send me whatever you’ve got to send me. Then we saw it. It’s pretty cool.
OMC: I imagine the guys at Ole Miss are wondering when this is ever going to end.
WJ: Oh, I know. That’s another way to look at it. I’ve never looked at it from their angle!
OMC: Does it get old for you, too, or for a couple weeks in March is it more "I get to see myself X years ago running around again"?
WJ: Does it ever get old? No. It does not get old. The only thing that happens every year is every time I see the pass I’m like "I should’ve taken the shot!" I’m just kidding. Every year it’s exciting. I’m from Phi Slamma Jamma – I love basketball, I live it. Every March it’s just a cherry on top of everything else to see that play again.
OMC: You have a young son now, 16 months old, and dad will always be on YouTube. Have you thought about that now that you’re a "regular" dad but here’s this thing you were involved in that will live forever. Is that a new element to this experience for you?
WJ: Absolutely. First of all, thanks for calling me regular. I appreciate that. Anytime you’re a father, priorities change. The first four months it’s all about the health and well-being of the child but then you start thinking … he’s huge. I gotta tell you, my son is huge. He’s my lottery pick. I think it’s great anything you can pass down or share with your son is just amazing and you’re right, with this day and age with the technology, The Shot will be around for as long as I want it to be around. It’s going to always be there and thank God we won the game – I don’t need him seeing every year how dad was a loser! But now, it’s a great point. It’s powerful stuff. I’m really looking forward to when he can understand and fully comprehend what happened, what it means and how it’s formed our lives, how he came to be. It’s rolling up in a lot of different scenarios. I think it’s a great, great moment and I can’t wait to share it with him.
OMC: Some former athletes don’t like to watch the sport they played – are you a college basketball fan or NCAA Tournament fan at all, or is it bittersweet knowing that run did end for your team back in ’98?
WJ: I don’t have any bad feelings about it because we played our asses off and I know that at the end of the day, if you played as hard as you could and did the best you think you could at the time, then you have no regrets. As far as March …. I have a few house rules. One, leave dad alone. I am on the couch. I’ve got the televisions on, I’m checking the iPad. I just love, love college basketball.
OMC: Does the fact that Bryce is back there coaching your alma mater hammer home the fact that 15 years has really passes since then?
WJ: We all knew, I’m talking about that core group of seniors, we all thought Bryce would be mayor of Valparaiso. We were saying that our freshman year. That basketball blood is in his family. His brother Scott is (coaching) at Baylor.
OMC: When you watch that play – do you wonder how you even caught the pass? You had maybe an inch over those defenders, and then to kick it out so seamlessly to Bryce.
WJ: You know, that’s a great question. The fact that it shouldn’t have happened made it so spectacular. I will tell you – and this is the God’s honest truth – I’m a two-foot jumper and I attribute that a lot to jump plays that’s usually in volleyball. So that play, we practiced end of game play at the end of every practice and of course we’d all go "Oh, why are we doing this? We’re never going to do this." It was actually an audible at the end of the game like "OK, we’ve got the ball out of bounds, guys let’s run Pacer, OK, OK." So that was a set play. My only job is jump as high as you possibly can, catch the ball, either shoot it or pass it to Bryce. I was in no position to shoot it, thank God, so I did the shovel pass. I don’t know. God was looking for us that day, to tell you the truth. When I look back on it, you’re right, there were a lot of hands up there. It was a perfect pass. It had to work perfectly.
OMC: Right. And if you watch yourself, it’s almost a blind pass to Bryce based on the time left.
WJ: Yup. I knew he’d be there.
OMC: What did you draw most from that play or that time as a college athlete?
WJ: That’s a great question. I’d say the camaraderie and the team work and belief, just knowing that if you – it might sound cliché but it’s so true – if you work hard, you have a set goal and you work hard to get it, you’re going to have some adversity but it’s definitely going to make you stronger, and if you’re going to get to where you want to be, it’s going to take hard work and determination. I really carried that forward in everything I’ve done since college. Especially in the business world, not everything is going to work 100 percent. You’re going to have to close places. You’re not going to make as much money as you originally set. But if you have that goal and that mindset and you continue to forge ahead and use the adversity as a learning opportunity, you’re going to end up on top one time or another.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.