With the outcome of the women’s basketball game between Temple and Connecticut no longer in doubt Sunday, Dan Ray’s thoughts turned to his English assignment: “Plato’s Republic.”

A Cumberland native in his first year at Temple University, Ray knew he should do some reading if he wanted to watch his New England Patriots play in the Super Bowl that evening.

“I have homework,” he told his buddy, Jon Gilbert, late in the first half of UConn’s 83-49 victory at McGonigle Hall in Philadelphia. “I have to leave.”

Gilbert insisted they stay.

“(UConn) is the second-ranked team in the country,” Gilbert said. “We’re staying and you’re going to watch the whole game whether you like it or not.”

Moments later, two members of Temple’s marketing staff randomly approached Ray – who happened to be sitting at the end of a row – and asked him to take part in a promotion involving a half-court shot worth $10,000.

Ray accepted the challenge and, during a timeout in the second half, sank the shot.

After it rattled through the hoop, he went a little crazy. He first ran toward the opposite baseline, pivoted and raced back in front of the student section. He punched the air with his fist. He leaned back and unleashed a primal scream. He flapped his arms upward to encourage even more noise from a raucous crowd of 2,646 – largest ever at McGonigle Hall – before he reached over his shoulder, plucking an imaginary arrow from an imaginary quiver, and pretended to shoot it into the stands. The reference, he said, was to Legolas, a master archer from Lord of the Rings.

“When I saw the ball go in, it was a rush of adrenaline I’ve never felt before,” Ray said by phone from his dormitory in Philadelphia. “I was just flooded with energy and I had to get it out somehow.”


A video clip made its way into ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day on “SportsCenter.” The image of a wide-eyed, bearded Ray running with arms outstretched and a basketball in the background became fodder for a Photoshop battle on the entertainment website reddit.com.

Back home in Cumberland, where parents Bob and Nancy live with Ray’s brothers – Ben, a Greely senior, and Adam, an eighth-grader at Greely Middle School – a video clip captured on Gilbert’s phone arrived, followed by a text from Dan. Mom was first to see it.

“She wasn’t screaming, but she was laughing a lot,” said Ben, who had been in the basement with his biology homework. “She seemed to be in some sort of disbelief about it.”

All three Ray boys are cross country runners. Dan, 18, also ran middle distance indoors and outdoors for Greely High. Ben, 17, is one of the state’s best pole vaulters. Adam, 14, skis and plays Ultimate Frisbee.

Until Sunday, Dan’s sporting peak came as a member of an 800-meter relay team that placed second at the 2012 Class B indoor track state championship meet.

“He never played on any school (basketball) team,” Ben said, “but we do have a hoop in our driveway. We would definitely attempt some long-distance shots.”


Sunday marked only the second women’s basketball game Ray has seen at Temple. He spent much of halftime signing forms and getting nervous, then waited until the third timeout of the second half before walking on court.

“They forgot to bring a ball out, so I was standing at half court for about 10 seconds, looking around and not knowing what to do,” he said. “Finally someone tossed it to me from the tunnel. By that point my heart was racing and I just wanted to get it off as soon as possible.”

He caught the basketball, dribbled a few times as he backed up, looked at his target, took two more dribbles as he moved toward the midcourt stripe and, with a final hop step, let it fly.

“Those two seconds it was hanging in the air, so many thoughts were going through my head,” he said. “I knew it would be close. Well, it felt really good coming out of my hand. My only concern was that it looked like it was veering left.”

Instead, the ball struck low on the back of the rim, caromed to the front and flushed through the twine, sending Ray and the crowd into a frenzy.

There was more paperwork with the marketing staff – “They didn’t know what to do because this had never happened before,” he said – and Ray eventually watched the end of the game with Gilbert, who waved off any suggestion that he get a share of the prize.

“It’s just the resonating pride that he made the shot,” Gilbert said. “That’s all I need.”


Later that night, about a dozen students gathered in Ray’s room to watch the Super Bowl. When Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse made a bobbling circus catch to put the Seahawks within reach of victory, Ray said his heart sank. Then came the Malcolm Butler interception, and the Patriots were champions.

Naturally, Ray leapt up and started running. He raced down the hall to find the only other Patriots fan on the floor and celebrate.

“After the game ended,” Ray said, “my friends were like, ‘You’re not allowed to have anything good happen to you for the rest of the day.’ ”

Ray plans to use the money to help pay his tuition. After being recognized and pointed at all over campus on Monday, he shaved his beard to regain a bit of anonymity. On Tuesday, he went to the gym with some buddies and, of course, tried to re-create his shot.

In 15 attempts, he didn’t make any. They gave up and played H-O-R-S-E instead.

“All in all,” Ray said, “it was a really, really good day.”