Student upgrades his ride after hitting miracle shot

Evan Pflugradt

Wichita State junior Alex Durano received the keys to a yellow 2016 Ford Mustang on Monday after hitting a miracle half-court shot Saturday during a contest by Mel Hambelton Ford.

Fans in Charles Koch Arena stayed on their feet clapping and cheering through the first five minutes of the game Saturday against Bradley before Ronnie Suggs settled the crowd with a two-point basket.

While the Braves trimmed a 13-point deficit down to single digits, the pressure built back up on a once-calm crowd. Yet none could match the intensity that one fan felt standing eagerly in the tunnel.  

Durano stood watching a crowd of more than 10,000 as the student’s heart rate sped up.

“You see the vantage point the players have from the tunnel,” he said. “I was so worried about not making my free throw.”

Durano had been selected from the fan section to participate in “Shock My Ride,” a contest sponsored by Mel Hambelton Ford.

After a foul by Markis McDuffie stopped the game for the under-12 media timeout, Durano walked to the free throw line with his eyes set on reviving some old talent.

Durano was challenged to make a free throw, three-point basket and a half-court shot, all in under 30 seconds. If he made all three inside the time-limit he would walk away the owner of a 2016 Ford Mustang.

Nerves set in quickly. Durano missed four free-throw attempts before hitting from the stripe.

“I missed a lot of my free throws,” he said. “Once I saw my free-throw go in, I had a little more confidence.”

Then he hit the three-point basket with a chance to shoot for the grand prize.

Durano dashed to half-court with a rush of adrenaline, his nerves running at an all-time high. With under 15 seconds, Durano didn’t have much opportunity. His first attempt grazed the side of the rim.

“It was a beat-the-clock type of situation,” he said. “I was just trying to get as many shots up as I could.”

Trying to race against the clock he launched another, the second caught nothing but air.

With five seconds left, enough for one final shot, Durano aimed and fired and turned around. Durano reached for another ball, he hoped to pull in one more attempt, but he didn’t need to.

The ball hit the back of the net and went in, a perfect swish.

Durano hit the shot with no time remaining in the contest, the crowd erupted with cheer and praise. Durano wasn’t fortunate enough to catch a glimpse at his miracle shot, but the crowd was enough assurance.  

“I didn’t get a chance to see it,” Durano said of his winning shot. “I was too focused on getting another shot up.”

Durano stood in disbelief and raised a hand to the sky in celebration.

“It didn’t feel like it happened,” he said. “I tried to embrace the moment, though I couldn’t really process it.”

Durano said the winning half-court shot was the highlight of his basketball career. He played basketball as a kid, and was a part of the Andover High School freshman basketball team. His experiences also include occasional intramural scrimmages with his brothers of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Durano was given the keys to a 2016 Ford Mustang on a two-year lease Monday.

Mel Hambelton Ford has been sponsoring Wichita State athletics for over 30 years. Lisa Hambleton, president of the dealership, said the contest was an initiative comprised by their marketing department earlier this year. The contest has been ongoing through all Shocker home games this season.

“We hope to purchase another yellow Ford Mustang so we can continue to hold this contest,” Hambelton said. “We’ve seen positive responses through the contest, and we would love to give another one away.”

It’s not the first time he’s been behind the wheel of this type of vehicle. Durano currently drives a 2006 Ford Mustang, but his old set of wheels is all but blank history in his mind. He plans to sell his 10-year-old model in the coming months.

“The weirdest thing is knowing I’m going to drive a brand new car for a couple of years,” Durano said. “This is one of those things you dream about.”

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