Summer 2024

MAGAZINE: How God Drew It Up — 25th anniversary of Bryce Drew's iconic shot

This story appears in the Spring 2023 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine. To read the rest of it, and for more in-depth feature stories like it, subscribe to our quarterly magazine!

Drew

Spring 2023 Issue

With the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic shots in college basketball history upon us, the Drew family reflects on that moment, their shared faith in Christ, and the coaching journeys of Homer, Scott and Bryce.

***

Immediately after hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift No. 13-seed Valparaiso over No. 4-seed Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, Bryce Drew hit the deck. His dad and head coach, Homer, was asked after the game why Bryce dove onto the floor. Homer thought it might have been an attempt to protect himself as his teammates came running at him. Only when they were walking out of the locker room at Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City that afternoon of March 13 did Homer learn the real reason.

Bryce told Homer he dove on the floor because it was the closest place he could get to where he could give thanks to the Lord.

“Bryce realized it wasn’t him, but it was God’s power through him that allowed that shot to go in,” Homer said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in November. “And that was really touching.”

Twenty-five years later, that shot remains one of the most iconic in college basketball history.

Trailing 69-67 with 20 seconds remaining, Valparaiso got a defensive stop and secured the rebound. The ball found its way to Bryce — the team’s leading scorer (19.8 points per game) and a two-time Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year — at midcourt. He pump faked, dumped the ball off to center Zoran Viskovic and reset himself on the 3-point line. Viskovic immediately gave the ball back to Bryce, who was wide open and took a shot with seven seconds left.

“All of us were very excited because I’ve seen Bryce make that shot in our backyard and in our arena at Valparaiso for years, so [I] was thrilled when he had that opportunity,” Homer recalled. “One of his dreams was always to hit a game-winning shot.”

But this attempt hit the front of the rim. The rebound was collected by Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Ansu Sesay, whom Valparaiso fouled with 4.1 seconds remaining.

He missed the first free throw. Homer took his final timeout.

Sesay’s second free throw came off the back of the rim and went out of bounds. Valparaiso ball along the baseline with 2.5 seconds on the clock.

Homer then called for a play named “Pacer” in honor of the NBA team that plays 150 miles south of Valparaiso’s campus. So Jamie Sykes threw a deep pass to Bill Jenkins, who caught the ball past half-court and quickly passed it to Bryce running by him on the right wing.

Bryce’s second attempt at a game-winner was true.

“When God blesses you and He gives you something that you don’t deserve — and He gave me an awesome platform with that ball going in the rim; it very easily could’ve been short and not gone in — it’s something that I really enjoy talking about, just because there was a lot of commitment in it, a lot of hard work, a lot of faith, a lot of belief,” Bryce said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast.

And the whole Drew family was there to witness it. Dad, of course, was on the bench, as was the oldest child in the family, Scott, serving as an assistant coach. In the stands was mother Janet, sister Dana, and her husband, Casey Shaw.

Bryce finished the game with 22 points, and followed it up with another 22 in the second round, an 83-77 win over No. 12-seed Florida State. That sent Valparaiso to its first and only Sweet 16 appearance (a 74-68 loss to No. 8-seed Rhode Island).

“It’s such a fond memory for myself because I grew up watching the NCAA Tournament,” Bryce said. “I always wanted to be part of March Madness. To be able to be part of the history and win a game on a last-second shot in the first round, you know, it’s something that I kind of reflect on all those Friday nights and Saturday nights in the gym, that it was worth it.”

“Bryce realized it wasn’t him, but it was God’s power through him that allowed that shot to go in. And that was really touching.” — Homer Drew

***

Homer was the head coach at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, for a large portion of his kids’ childhoods, which meant Scott, Dana and Bryce took full advantage of the school’s numerous athletic facilities.

“They thought their backyard was the basketball gymnasium at Bethel College,” Homer said. “I can remember we would be playing touch football, we would play soccer, we would roller skate on the gym floor.”

It was basketball that stuck, though, as all three Drew children grew up to pursue careers in the sport. But as Dad was laying a basketball foundation for his children, he was also helping set a foundation for faith. Homer grew up going to church and knew about Jesus, but it wasn’t until he had kids that he developed a personal relationship with God.

Bryce saw that faith lived out in his parents, but faith was something he truly had to make his own during his sophomore year of high school, when he needed surgery to address a heart condition. It was a newer procedure, and he remembers having to sign papers preventing the doctors from being sued if he died.

That’s when Janet gave him a verse to lean on — Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

“It kind of made me grow up early and realize, ‘You know what? When I open my eyes, I have no control over what’s going to happen in my life,’” Bryce said. “From that point on, even if my parents were out of town and couldn’t go to church, I wanted to go and learn more about the Lord and grow in my faith.

“That was my first step, but there’ve been other steps along the way where I think God’s really shown me His presence and just how He’s in control no matter if it’s a good circumstance or a bad circumstance.”

A couple other surgeries followed the initial one, but Bryce eventually returned to the court and ended up being named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1994. He went on to play for Homer at Valparaiso, then was taken 16th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft and played six seasons in the league.

He was the second Drew child to go pro. After a remarkable career at the University of Toledo — she left in 1995 as the school’s all-time leader in points and assists, which led to her being in the school’s Hall of Fame — Dana played professionally in Italy for three years.

Scott, meanwhile, decided to stop playing basketball as a high school sophomore, but became a student manager for the men’s basketball team while he attended Butler University. He was set to go on to law school after he graduated, but came home for Christmas his senior year and told Homer he wanted to get into coaching. Dad told him that was a great idea once he got his law degree, but Scott clarified that he meant becoming a coach right away.

Valparaiso, which Homer took over in 1988, happened to have a graduate assistant position open, so Homer hired Scott. When Homer retired after the 2001-02 season, Scott succeeded him as head coach. But when Scott was hired by Baylor a year later, Homer came out of retirement and returned to his old job.

“When God blesses you and He gives you something that you don’t deserve — and He gave me an awesome platform with that ball going in the rim; it very easily could’ve been short and not gone in — it’s something that I really enjoy talking about.” — Bryce Drew

***

Scott inherited a Baylor program marred by tragedy and scandal. The Bears won a total of 12 conference games in Scott’s first four seasons as the program dealt with severe sanctions — some self-imposed and some levied by the NCAA — stemming from violations under previous head coach Dave Bliss.

Slowly but surely, Scott was able to rebuild Baylor. The program won 20 games and made the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08. It had been two decades since either of those things happened.

Two years later, the Bears went 28-8 and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1950. That was the first of two trips to the Elite Eight in three seasons. A run of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances began two years after the second Elite Eight. In 2017, the program ascended to the Associated Press’ No. 1 national ranking for the first time ever.

As he became more and more successful, Scott remained dedicated to his Christ-centered vision for the program. Coaching at the largest Baptist college in the country made it even easier for Scott to emphasize and talk about faith.

“I knew that we could have that success here at Baylor, and it’s just great to be able to do it and allow great, young Christian men to have impacts on so many future generations just by hearing their interviews and their testimonies,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast.

At the center of Scott’s program is a culture of J.O.Y., which stands for “Jesus, Others, Yourself.” He got the acronym from Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, who was introduced to it by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy.

“When I’m coaching, that’s when I feel closest to God at times,” Scott said. “Whenever you’re in His will and doing what He calls you to do, there’s just that joy and excitement. … I knew He wanted me in coaching and as my relationship grew, I knew He wanted me in coaching for the right reasons.”

Baylor missed March Madness in 2018, but returned and fell in the second round in 2019. The Bears jumped back to the nation’s No. 1 ranking in January 2020, and by Feb. 18, 2020, they were 24-1 and winners of 23 in a row. However, they dropped three of their final five games before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With four starters returning, Baylor opened the 2020-21 season with 18 straight victories. A road loss to Kansas was the Bears’ only blemish during the regular season, and they entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.

A No. 15 seed in that tournament was Grand Canyon (in Phoenix) — coached by Bryce. He had joined Homer’s staff at Valparaiso and taken over as head coach when Homer retired for good after the 2010-11 season. The Crusaders won four regular-season conference titles and reached the NCAA Tournament twice in Bryce’s five seasons.

He was hired by Vanderbilt in 2016 and led the Commodores to the Big Dance in his first season. But Vanderbilt parted ways with Bryce in 2019 after a 9-23 season. He took a year off from coaching and then returned to be the head coach at Grand Canyon in 2020. And again in his first season, he led his team to the NCAA Tournament. Though GCU fell to No. 2-seed Iowa in the first round, it was the program’s first-ever March Madness appearance.

And because that tournament was held completely in Indianapolis in an effort to reduce travel and stop the spread of COVID, Homer and Janet had the opportunity to watch both their sons coach in the same NCAA Tournament — in the state where Homer spent more than three decades as a head coach (he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019)…

Drew family

Homer Drew, Bryce Drew, Scott Drew (AP Photos)

This story appears in the Spring 2023 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine. To read the rest of it, and for more in-depth feature stories like it, subscribe to our quarterly magazine!

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