Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Ten years and some 750,000 YouTube views later,
one of the University of Maryland basketball's favorite sons has finally come
clean about the shot that still stands as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters
in NCAA Tournament history.
"Now that I'm back home from playing in Europe, working in the game and seeing
everyone again, I have to admit. I thought it was an air-ball." said Drew
For Maryland fans on March 21, 2003, it was anything but.
The Terrapins were down 73-72 to UNC Wilmington with just five seconds left in
the first-round game at Atlanta. Nicholas took the inbounds pass, dribbled
diagonally across to the right side of the court and let loose a high-arching
three-pointer in front of two careful-not-to-foul defenders. There was no
time to square up to the basket, so Nicholas leaped high off his left foot and
released just before the buzzer.
The backboard's red light turned on as time expired and the ball swished
through. Nicholas and his teammates celebrated wildly as the game-ending
sequence took more than 10 minutes for officials to validate and confirm.
"It was calculated desperation," smiles Nicholas, now a college basketball
analyst after a standout 10-year playing career that included two
championships and a scoring title in the Euroleague. "I was moving so fast
that when I shot it, I aimed way left because I knew my momentum was going to
carry the ball right. Still, my first thought was that it was going to be way
That shot, plus a dagger three that beat North Carolina State three weeks
earlier and a couple of dazzlers for the famed Euroleague team Panathinaikos
(Athens, Greece) are part of a YouTube lineup under Nicholas's name that is
now moving toward one million views.
The air-ball confession reflects the honesty that Nicholas displays in his
role as studio analyst for Total College Sports (TCS, www.TotalCSports.com)
and his game analyst work for ESPN3.
From the commentary desk at the TCS studios in Chicago this week, he is
projecting two big upsets of No. 1 seeds: "St. Louis can knock out Louisville
in that Midwest Region because they will handle the pressure," Nicholas says.
"They'll slow it down and if Louisville can't get those easy points off the
press, they are vulnerable."
He also likes Wisconsin to oust Gonzaga.
"They've beaten Indiana, Michigan and Ohio St. so they know how to compete in
America's best conference," he adds. "Wisconsin can make it a low-scoring
game and they've got enough big people to match up with Gonzaga's size."
Like that kid in a candy story, Nicholas continues to follow his dreams. "I
have this deep love for the game and a unique experience as a player both in
college and in Europe," Nicholas offers. "I've been fortunate to have a pro
career overseas, so I've got that out of my system. I know I've been out of
sight, out of mind, but I'm working now to continue in basketball as a
A high school star at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville, NY, Nicholas was
recruited to Maryland by legendary Terps coach Gary Williams. His time with
the Terrapins included the 2002 NCAA Championship, in which Maryland defeated
Kentucky, Connecticut and Kansas en route to the Monday night final before
topping Indiana, 64-52, for the title. His four-year teammate was Steve
Blake, now in his 10th year in the NBA. Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Chris
Wilcox and Terence Morris were among the other standouts during a golden era
of Maryland basketball.
In addition to his work at TCS, where his host/partner is Tim Doyle, the
former Northwestern University star guard, Nicholas is doing media interviews
around the country as America gears up for another frenetic run through some
67 games in 13 cities over 21 days.
Inevitably, there will be another buzzer-beater or three to punctuate what
many believe is the most exciting spectacle in sports and entertainment today.
Drew Nicholas will applaud, comment and allow a special smile as the
tournament moves toward its Monday, April 8, culmination in Atlanta, the same
city where he made such great memories 10 years ago.
The Sports Network