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ETSU student wins $20K, loses it, gets it back again

Rex Barber • Jan 24, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Jamaal Hundley had 24 seconds on the clock, four baskets to make and 4,000 people watching him as he tried to win a new car or $20,000 during an East Tennessee State University basketball game Monday.

During a timeout of the Belmont-ETSU basketball game Monday night, Hundley, an ETSU junior, was randomly chosen to try to win the promotional prize offered during home games by participating in the Progressive Shot Challenge.

He sank all four shots - a layup, a free throw, a 3-pointer and a half-court shot.

“I basically put my head down and prayed and took two steps, threw it and the ball went in,” Hundley said of the final half-court shot. “The crowd went wild.”

After he calmed down, Hundley gave his information to ETSU athletics and went on to work, thinking he was going to be $20,000 richer Tuesday.

Then, when he looked at the front page of the Johnson City Press Tuesday morning, he saw a picture of himself celebrating what he thought was a win and information that the final shot, the half-court shot, was under review by the insurance company underwriting the prize, because his foot apparently was slightly over the line.

An image of Hundley just before he launches the half-court shot clearly shows his foot on the half-court line. He apparently had to be behind the line for the basket to count.

“I was kind of disappointed,” Hundley said of his reaction to the information that the shot needed to be reviewed. “That was never brought up to me after I left.”

Still, Hundley said he was merely humbled to get the chance to win the prize, regardless of whether it was given to him.

“I just hope and pray that they make the right decision,” he said early in the day Tuesday.

Word came around noon Tuesday the insurance company, American Hole ‘n One, had made the decision to deny the prize after reviewing the video of Hundley’s half-court shot.

The story took another turn Tuesday evening, though, when ETSU sent word that prize sponsors Johnson City Honda, Mountain States Health Alliance and the university would provide Hundley with $20,000 for sinking all four baskets.

ETSU’s portion will come out of marketing money, not state dollars. The marketing money is designated for promotions like the contest Hundley participated in Monday night.

Prior to learning the insurance company denied the prize but that he would be getting $20,000 anyway, Hundley said he likely would choose the cash rather than the car.

“I pay for school by myself,” he said. “It’s a nice way to pay back loans.”

Hundley said this was his first time ever winning anything like that.

“I had never been chosen for anything like that,” he said.

Hundley played basketball in high school in Strawberry Plains, where he is from.

He transferred to ETSU last year and is majoring in integrated marketing communication.

A regular at ETSU basketball games, Hundley had never seen anyone come close to winning the prize.

“It really brought the crowd into the game, I’ll tell you that,” Hundley said. “Hopefully we can get a crowd like this at every game.”

While paying for school may be an option, Hundley said he wanted to take care of his family first with his winnings.

“I just want to say it’s truly a blessing,” Hundley said after being presented a check for $20,000 at Tuesday night’s ETSU women’s basketball game against Louisiana State. “I thank God for everything he’s done for me and for ETSU and for the faculty and staff that pulled everything together for me to get this. I’m very thankful.”

ETSU President Brian Noland said giving Hundley the money was the right thing to do. Noland was at the game Monday and saw the excited reaction from students in attendance after Hundley made the shot.

“The moral of the story is he made the shot, the crowd came alive,” Noland said. “Jamaal’s one of our student leaders on campus, and it’s a chance for us to celebrate our students and to put our students first.”

Joe Trujillo, owner of Johnson City Honda, said the contest had been in place for two years. Even though the rules said Hundley had to be behind the line, the right thing to do was give him the prize money, Trujillo said.

“You don’t spoil a great moment for ETSU and him,” Trujillo said. “You pay the money. That’s what we did. We just did the right thing.”

Ed Herbert, MSHA vice president for communications and marketing has waited for two years to see someone win the prize. He said he was pleased it went to a deserving ETSU student.

“I was here last (Monday) night and, boy, when this crowd jumped to its feet and he made that last shot, we saw somebody take a dream and make it a reality in 24 seconds,” Herbert said.

Hundley said he never doubted he would win the money, because what he did is a rare occurrence.

Still, while nice, his winnings are not that important, he said.

“I see money as not the way of life but the way of giving, so I’m always giving and receiving more in the future,” Hundley said. “As you can see, I won $20,000 in a contest.”

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