Maynor's Shot That Felled Duke Still Echoes

"Oh, man, it is crazy," VCU's Eric Maynor said of the attention he gets for his winning shot against Duke. (Getty Images)
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 12, 2007

RICHMOND, Oct. 11 -- Eric Maynor walked into the basketball office at Virginia Commonwealth University on Wednesday and placed a stack of letters on a table. One was from Missouri, another from New Jersey. One was typed, another handwritten.

Most basketball players at mid-major schools don't receive mail from fans across the country, but most have not made a game-winning shot to knock Duke out of the first round of the NCAA tournament. No college basketball player who will begin practice Friday authored a more defining moment in last season's NCAA tournament than Maynor, a junior point guard who said his jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining changed his life.

"Oh, man, it is crazy," Maynor said of the attention. "When I come into the office, there is always some letters there. A little girl sent me this." Maynor held up a handmade card with his number 3 on front and a message on the inside that read, "You deserve this honor, you are the best basketball player, from your No. 1 fan, Lauren."

Even though Maynor received first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association honors last season, even though he had a spellbinding finish in VCU's victory over George Mason in the CAA tournament final, he became a household name only when he made one 17-foot shot against Duke.

"That is the magic of the NCAA tournament, where stars are born," said Oklahoma Coach Jeff Capel, the former VCU coach who recruited Maynor to the school. "You can look at shot after shot that will always be in the minds of fans. He was able to do it on the biggest stage. He is a star now."

It has been almost a decade since Bryce Drew made the buzzer-beating shot for Valparaiso against Mississippi in 1998, but he is still reminded of it occasionally when he meets people.

"No matter what happens, he will always have that shot, and a lot of people won't," Drew, now Valparaiso's associate head coach, said of Maynor.

But this was more than a Cinderella team beating a Duke team that many fans love to hate. This was a North Carolina native -- who grew up a Tar Heels fan -- hitting the winning shot against the in-state power that never recruited him. What made the shot even more improbable was that Maynor's most glaring weakness growing up was his outside shot.

Maynor's father, George, was a celebrated jump shooter who played at East Carolina and was among the final players cut by the Chicago Bulls in 1980. But Eric Maynor had one of the worst shooting forms Capel had seen. He released the ball almost from the wrong side of his head and inadvertently spun the ball sideways. Even with questions about his shot, Capel was so enamored with Maynor that, while watching him during an AAU tournament, he hoped Maynor's team would lose so coaches from more prominent schools would not be compelled to watch his games.

"If he could have shot, there was no way we would have gotten him," Capel said. "I really thought he could play in the ACC."

That shot, now refined, has helped change Maynor's life, although it has not changed him. He would rather talk about teammates and coaches than bask in the afterglow of the Duke game. VCU Coach Anthony Grant said Maynor is a "level-headed and humble" player who has handled the fanfare with maturity.

Attention has come from all directions. His Facebook profile had several thousand people, including many claiming to be fans of ACC schools, request to be his so-called "friend." When Maynor competed this summer on the Pan American Games team, teammates such as Maryland's James Gist often talked to him about the shot.

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