Friday, October 15, 2004

10 years ago, he hit long shot at UC

Midnight Madness half-courter is legend now. Can he do it again?

By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer

Cory Clouse gets a chance tonight to duplicate his 1994 half-court shot at UC's Midnight Madness.

Cory Clouse had made enough half-court shots just playing around to know how it felt when the shot was going in. He didn't have a good feeling about this one.

"It felt like it was going to be an air ball," Clouse said. "It rolled off my fingers wrong."

But its flight was true, its trajectory perfect. When the ball swished through the net, no one was more surprised than the man who shot it.

"The funny thing is, the crowd reacted to me making it before I did," Clouse said. "To me, it was a shock that it went in, but the crowd was ready for it."

Ten years have passed since Clouse, then a pre-junior in the University of Cincinnati's five-year engineering program, arrived at Shoemaker Center on Oct. 14, 1994, to attend UC's version of Midnight Madness, which was being emceed by college basketball analyst Dick Vitale and broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Clouse will return to The Shoe tonight to attend his first Midnight Madness since that memorable night. UC will relive the moment by showing a video of it, and Clouse will have a chance to duplicate his feat of 10 years ago with another half-court attempt. If he sinks it, he'll get to make a road trip with the Bearcats this season.

Back then, he was selected at random from among a crowd of 11,385 to attempt the shot. If he made it, ESPN would pay for a year of tuition, room and board. Vitale promised he would pay for his books.

Clouse had no time for a practice shot.

He had only one chance, but he knew how to make the most of it.

Because he had played so much basketball, he knew better than to simply heave the ball overhand toward the basket and hope for the best.

No, this was a real basketball shot, the kind that Nick Van Exel might attempt with time running out.

"Essentially, I shot it like a jump shot," Clouse said, "but basically with the ball lower, closer to my waist because I needed more behind it."

It didn't take long before Clouse's first instincts upon releasing the shot were proven wrong.

"Watching the video now, I could see the demeanor in my attitude change," Clouse said.

"I'm watching it and I'm thinking, 'That's got a chance.' It's pure luck that it goes in. I'd shot enough of them. I made about one in five to that point."

After the shot went in, Clouse ran over to hug the Bearcat mascot. When he turned around, Vitale jumped into his arms.

"He was more excited that I made the shot than I was," Clouse said.

"That was absolutely amazing to me, that he was that thrilled for somebody else."

Vitale said that right after UC's Midnight Madness, he went to Notre Dame for a football game. The only thing people wanted to talk about was Clouse's shot.

"It was an unbelievable moment, something spontaneous that you just can't plan for," Vitale said. "(Clouse) hit that shot, and the place was just rocking."

The shot was replayed over and over on ESPN and Clouse basked in his 15 minutes of fame. It was ranked No. 13 among the network's Top 25 memorable moments during 25 years of college basketball coverage.

Now 31, Clouse lives in Delhi Township and works as a salesman for Northgate Lincoln-Mercury Volkswagen. He and his wife, Kathy, have two children, Kira, 4, and Caroline, 2.

Clouse has a tape of the 1994 shot at home and a picture in his office of himself with Vitale. Occasionally, someone will ask him about the shot, and he'll play the tape as proof that it really did happen.

"I still get tingles every time I watch it," he said. "I get new friends that come over and I still get people that I work with or that I know and it's like they want to see it or they don't believe it until they see it."

The half-court shot wasn't the only highlight of the night for Clouse. He also won the intramural slam-dunk and 3-point shooting contests in the dormitory division that night, for which he received a pair of $50 gift certificates for Skyline Chili.

"I had athletically the best night I've ever had," Clouse said.

The University of Cincinnati's Midnight Madness starts at 10 p.m. today at the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center. Fans can get their first glimpse of the men's and women's basketball teams. Admission is free.


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