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American Today



Trick Shots Not Needed to Beat Colgate

By Mike Unger

Photo: Steve Luptak

Steve Luptak can make some tricky shots. (Photo courtesy of AU Athletics Communications)

Steve Luptak started the second half of the American University men’s basketball team’s March 2 Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal win over Colgate by catching a pass in front of the bench, driving hard down the middle of the lane and flipping the ball in off the glass with his left hand.  

As the 1,652 fans in Bender Arena in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of thousands around the world who’ve watched the jaw-dropping trick shot video in which he costars knew, Luptak’s made much tougher buckets.  

Two nights earlier, the senior guard and his junior teammate, Joe Hill, uploaded a video of them nailing impossible, how’d-they-even-think-that-up shots from perches on, beside, and high above the Bender floor. A few of their friends posted the video, filmed by team manager Tiana Hakimzadeh and edited by sophomore guard Blake Jolivette, on their Facebook pages, and everyone went to bed.

When Hill walked out of class at 11:20 the next morning and checked Google, he thought “this was a little much.”

The video went viral literally overnight. Picked up by ESPN, Yahoo!, and the Sporting News, among others, it captivated both hardcore basketball fans and people who wouldn’t know Kobe Bryant from kobe beef. As ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan wrote: “Good work, fellas. A nation of tiny attention spans salutes you.”

“We had no idea it was going to blow up like it has,” said Hill, who didn’t take a shot in the 15 seconds he played against Colgate. (If he had, he certainly would have made it.)

The trio filmed the video over three off days beginning in January. They used props ranging from a laundry bin to a courtside phone, and drilled shots from behind the basket, the length of the court, and the top row of the bleachers.

You wouldn’t want to play these guys in a game of HORSE.

The most difficult shot was the video’s final feat, where a seated Hill lobs a ball straight up from the three-point line, then Luptak throws another ball at it, which in turn pushes the original ball through the basket.

“That was probably the one that took us the most time,” Luptak told “It took us anywhere from 30 to 40 attempts. It took the most time because we had to chase down the balls every time we missed it.”

Shockingly, the easiest shot to make was Luptak’s reverse kick three-pointer, which only took about five attempts, according to Hill.

Despite all the hoopla, the Eagles kept their focus and defeated a feisty Colgate team 69-53 to advance to the semifinals in Bender Sunday at 5 p.m. against Lafayette. Luptak played 25 minutes, making two of his three shots from the field—yet somehow missing his only free throw attempt. Maybe he needed a blindfold.

Hill plays sparingly, so when the business major graduates and moves into the corporate world the video might be the most visible mark he leaves on the AU basketball program.

“Hopefully we can win the Patriot League and get to the [NCAA] Tournament,” he said. “I’d rather that be my legacy.”