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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Big shot senior

Big+shot+senior

By: Meghan Daniel, contributing writer

Most students would consider the peak of their college careers to be their graduation ceremony. Senior biology major and business minor Will Sawyer might say otherwise. The peak, or at least a major highlight, of his college years happened at a basketball game on an overcast Sunday afternoon during the spring of his senior semester.

Sawyer, a member of the Wofford Men’s Golf Team, got his shot at fame on Feb. 25, 2018 on the basketball court of the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. At 2 p.m., the Terrier men’s basketball team stepped out on the court to play their final home game of the season. With the home finale also came the last opportunity to win scholarship money during halftime.

Throughout the basketball season, The Space, Wofford’s center for professional development and entrepreneurship, provided the opportunity for students to attempt a half-court shot that would potentially yield scholarship money if the shot was successful. Week after week, students stopped by The Space to work on their résumé and to be entered into the pool, out of which names were drawn to attempt the challenge. Week after week, the shot was missed and the prize money steadily increased.

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After a season of missed baskets, Sawyer was the last contestant to take advantage of the possible scholarship money, which had now increased to $2,400. The previous week, Sawyer worked with Rebecca Parker of The Space to revise his résumé. He then submitted it to another employee of The Space, John Coleman, at which point Sawyer’s name was entered into the pool of students that would have the chance at the spotlight during halftime at Sunday’s game. Sawyer was notified that his name was drawn on Friday, two days before the big game. As the big day approached, Sawyer recalls feeling nervous, but knew the possibility of making the shot was slim.

Sunday morning came. Sawyer called his mother to let her know about the opportunity at hand, at which she laughed. After talking to his mother, Sawyer spent about 30 minutes finessing his shot in the Benjamin Johnson Arena; he says out of about 40 shots, he made approximately five. He spent the rest of his morning at the Spartanburg Country Club practicing a different kind of shot, then returned to campus to relax before the game.

The nerves began to build as Sawyer sat in the stands during the first half of the game, but he shook them off in order to concentrate on his shot when the time came. With about two minutes left in the first half, Sawyer made his way down to the court to prepare for his big shot. At the end of the half, Sawyer and employees from The Space moved onto the court.

The stakes were high. Sawyer had a brief 10 seconds to make a winning shot from half-court. The first shot was an air-ball. Shot number two hit the front of the rim and fell away. Sawyer took two dribbles, slowed his pace, and aimed his third shot. As he watched his final shot in the air, he thought to himself “Wow, that thing has a chance.” Within seconds, the ball hit the rim and sunk into the net. The $2,400 shot became reality.

Sawyer was shocked. He said he did not know what to do after he made the shot, but he was certainly excited. He shared in his excitement with Curt McPhail, executive director of The Space, and Parker. Sawyer held up the huge check that was written out to him with the memo: “half-court shot.” The whole arena celebrated with him; one of his teammates even walked onto the court to give him a congratulatory high-five.

Soon after, Sawyer sent the video of his winning shot to his family members, accompanied by the text “Well, y’all just got $2,400 richer.” His sisters were in disbelief. His mother called and couldn’t stop laughing, and his father was very matter-of-fact; his comment on the phone was, “How ‘bout that.”

The money won from the half-court shot competition typically goes toward the winning student’s tuition, but as Sawyer is a senior in the midst of his spring semester, he will be reimbursed in the amount won for the tuition money that has already been paid for his final semester at Wofford. Sawyer mentioned how thankful he was for the team in The Space and the opportunity to participate in the contest.

News of his big shot spread quickly, especially in his hometown of Saluda, S.C. All in all, Sawyer was happy to be a part of the competition, but even happier to be able to return a portion of tuition money to his parents, who taught him the value of a dollar and of hard work.

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