Georgia Tech’s big winner Saturday was, much to the chagrin of Yellow Jackets fans, was not the Tech basketball fan.
It was instead student Caleb Espy, who hit a half-court shot during halftime to win Domino’s pizza for a year. Fate, or perhaps disillusionment with Tech’s season, brought the opportunity to Espy, a business administration major from Cumming High. He did the rest.
“It was awesome,” he said. “When I released it, I knew it wasn’t going to airball. I knew I wasn’t going to brick it off the backboard. I knew it was going to be somewhere where you want it to be. I thought it was going to be a little too far to the right. I released it and I crouched down, watching it.”
After it rimmed in, the crowd went bananas. Espy spread his arms and ran about the court in the style of an airplane, pointing at friends and generally savoring the moment like a pro.
Espy had volunteered to take the shot when a Tech staffer came over to the sideline student section at the 10-minute mark, calling attention to himself before she had had a chance to solicit a volunteer.
“I knew she was going to ask for a volunteer to do something,” he said. “I really didn’t know what. I just wanted to do it.”
Espy usually isn’t in the sideline student section. His regular spot is in north end zone student section with friends, all wearing yellow wigs. But the vantage point isn’t as good as the sideline, and the view is partially blocked by the basket. With the season playing out in such disappointing fashion, Espy said, “we were just like, this is not worth it.”
The contest worked in his favor. Espy regularly plays pickup basketball and is a member of his fraternity (SAE) basketball team. He would have a chance to win varying amounts of pizza depending on the difficulty of his shot, a layup (one pizza), a free throw (three), a 3-pointer (10) or a halfcourt shot (a year’s worth). After he was chosen, he said he started texting friends and his father for advice. The consensus was to go for it all, which proved wise counsel.
After he made the shot, “all these old alumni and older fans were like, (Brian) Gregory needs to talk to you,” Espy said.
Espy said their comments were both congratulatory but also tinged with the frustration of watching Tech’s struggles on offense.
If you’re wondering, Espy moderately supports Gregory, though he’s also frustrated. Student attendance for the past two home games has been down considerably.
“I think he should be given another year,” he said.
As for “free pizza for a year,” it turns out that he received 30 coupons for a free large one-topping pizza. Domino’s is Espy’s favorite chain pizza place – he approves of their change in crust – but apparently he consumes more than 30 pizzas in a year. He called it “kind of a bummer, but I’ll take it.” (UPDATE: I've been advised that Tech only had 30 pizza certificates on hand Saturday. He will receive 52 free pizza certificates.)
As things would have it, a student at Virginia sank a half-court shot on the same day to win a considerably larger prize than 30 free pizzas -- $18,000. Further, that student had 18 seconds – which turned out to be four attempts – to make one.
When a friend notified him of the other half-court shot, Espy responded, “I was like, well, he made one out of four. I made one out of one. Who won that competition? Even though he was walking away with $18,000 and I’m walking away with $250.”
Unfortunately for Espy, I think that competition goes the way of the other recent Tech-Virginia basketball matchup.