Brennan Bechard never imagined he’d make ESPN SportsCenter’s top plays seven years after the conclusion of his college basketball career.
But there he was — No. 2 on the cable network’s highlight reel — last Oct. 9 after sinking a half-court shot to win a Kansas student $10,000 at Late Night in the Phog.
“That speaks to how exciting my career was,” said Bechard, the former KU guard and current director of basketball operations, with a laugh. “We had enough guys that got the attention back when I was here (2007-09).
“It was pretty cool. There were a lot of congratulations around town. The main thing is I was happy that lucky student could get the money,” Bechard added of the winnings provided to Topeka sophomore Jerrod Martin Castro out of KU coach Bill Self’s checking account.
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Castro and one female contestant, chosen randomly, were given the option of shooting two half-court shots or picking someone in the arena to try to hit one of two on their behalf for $10,000.
Former KU forward Darnell Jackson, who was the choice of the female fan, stepped up first and missed both tries. Bechard, chosen by Castro, followed by swishing the second of his two attempts, causing KU’s current players to pile on top of Bechard while celebrating on the court.
“I’ve always kind of done the one-leg floater type deal. However you can get it up there,” Bechard said of his strategy. “Mine is kind of a one-leg runner. You treat it like a real shot. That way you can follow through and it lands a little softer.”
Bechard is available for duty again Saturday at the 32nd annual Late Night. For the second straight year, one female and one male KU student will have the opportunity to win $10,000 from Self if they choose the right person to sink a half-court bucket.
“The odds probably aren’t great, so I don’t know if anyone would want to pick me or not,” Bechard said of the unlikelihood of hitting such a shot two years in a row. “I’d be perfectly fine with them not picking me. It’s more pressure trying to not let that student down. We’ll see how it goes. I may throw a couple up this week in case. I haven’t shot ’em in a long time.”
Bechard was asked to identify some candidates who might be able to hit a half-court three Saturday.
“I think Jeremy Case, our new addition, would be a strong choice,” Bechard said of the former KU guard who is the Jayhawks’ video coordinator. “He’s one of the best shooters who has come through here. He didn’t get to show it always as much. He’s an unbelievable shooter. I think he’d be a strong choice.
“If Evan Manning is back, he’d be great. We shot a lot of half-court shots together. He’d be a strong choice. If Brady (Morningstar) is here. Any returning guys that are here I think would be a strong choice.”
Bechard, however, just might be the smartest choice because he’s proven he can make the shot under pressure.
“I see him shoot them in all the time,” Self said after Bechard’s performance a year ago. “He, Tyler (Self) and Evan (Manning) are by far the best half-court shooters we have. They have contests after every practice. If you are going to be known for something, I guess making a half-court shot after practice is OK to be known for. Brennan ... I’d pick him every time,” Self added, noting, “I was happy for Jerrod. That’s why we did it to hopefully give someone a fun night.”
Bechard laughed when asked if he can guarantee a fan he’d sink another half-court shot this Late Night.
“I cannot predict that,” he said. “I’m always pretty confident in my half-court shot. I think I’m decent. With the pressure of that many people watching and a full house, it’s a tough shot.”
Boot Camp ends Thursday
KU’s two-week Boot Camp conditioning program ends Thursday. The players will get a day off prior to Saturday’s Late Night.
“The guys have done remarkably well. We are a pretty well-conditioned team at this point,” Self said Wednesday during a radio appearance on KLWN (1320 AM) in Lawrence. “It’s still early. I think we are almost ready to start practice. I think we will be (ready) soon. We are not ready to play games. Based on what the guys have done and fighting through some stuff, I think it’s been a good camp.”
Freshman Udoka Azubuike (groin injury), who has been held out of Boot Camp drills this week, is questionable for Saturday’s Late Night scrimmage, Self told The Star on Wednesday, noting, “he should be ready in the next week.” … Transfer Malik Newman, who had back stiffness last week, has returned to action.