When David Brooker entered Rhodes Field House on the Harding University campus for the annual Midnight Madness Oct. 14, he had no idea he would be walking out with a half-tuition discount for the spring 2015 semester. Brooker, a junior health, kinesiology and coaching major at Harding, made a half-court shot in front of a cheering crowd of hundreds of students.
“Stuff like this never happens to me,” Brooker said.
The emcee of the event, which officially opened the 2014-15 basketball season for the Bisons and Lady Bisons, called two ticket numbers before Brooker’s winning ticket, which he received from someone else at the event. He had just finished playing in a football game on campus and was dressed for success in athletic shoes and shorts. He had been planning to attend Midnight Madness all along to watch some of his friends perform in the dunk contest, but he also got the opportunity to perform out on the floor.
“I went down there to have fun. I was thinking that I probably wasn’t going to make it because no one has ever made it before,” Brooker said. “I wasn’t even nervous. I took off my jacket, pulled up my socks, tried to pump up the crowd, and got the ball. I turned to look at the goal, and that’s when all the nerves just hit me.”
Brooker played football, baseball and basketball and ran track in high school, and he had experienced the feeling of being in front of a crowd with the game on the line.
“My legs were weak at the knees,” he said. “My palms were getting sweaty. But I thought, ‘I’ve got to shoot this.’ I took a couple of dribbles, took a step and let it glide. At first I thought it was off to the left. I thought, ‘Oh no! I’ve missed it.’ But then I saw it bounce off the backboard and go straight in. As soon as I saw that it went in, I held my arms up and just started running.”
Celebration of the crowd in the stands and the players on the floor erupted the moment Brooker’s shot fell through the hoop. Several basketball players and fans stormed the court, lifted Brooker on their shoulders, and paraded him around the floor.
“I went over to [the emcee] and said, ‘What do I do?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. This has never happened before,’” Brooker said.
No student has ever made the half-court shot for half tuition. Some students have even been granted more than one attempt to win. When Brooker told his family and fianceé, he said it was hard for them to believe. Brooker called his fianceé right after the event, waking her up and sharing the exciting news.
“She didn’t even know I was going [to Midnight Madness]. I was in the parking lot pacing in circles, and I called her and said, ‘Madison, believe me with all of your heart right now. I’m telling the truth. I got to shoot the half-court shot, and I hit it!’ She said, ‘No you didn’t!’ I told her again that I did, and she said, ‘You’re going to be a rock star.’”
But Brooker has other plans for his success. He hopes the play will make an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Sports Illustrated has already covered Brooker’s tuition-winning moment on their website.
“It was surreal that I got a chance to do that,” Brooker said, “but also that I made the shot.”