The Dagger

Student who sank half-court shot will get his prize money but not from his school

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Even though West Chester University has so far refused to award him any prize money, freshman Jack Lavery will still be getting paid for the remarkable half-court shot he hit during a halftime contest Saturday night.

In fact, he'll receive even more than he expected.

A Pizza Hut spokesman contacted Lavery on Tuesday to tell him the company will pay him the $10,000 he thought he won on Saturday night when he sank a layup, free throw, 3-pointer and half-court shot in less than 25 seconds. The company also will award Lavery free pizza for a year in the form of a $520 gift card good for one $10 pizza a week.

"He thought it was pretty cool Pizza Hut recognized his achievement," Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr said. "The fact we had not just pizza as a part of it but that we were also going to honor the $10,000, he couldn't wait to tell all his friends."

Why would Pizza Hut step in to help Lavery when it had nothing to do with the original contest? Terfehr insisted the chance to turn a college freshman's disappointment into joy was as big a factor as the potential positive publicity Pizza Hut will surely receive.

"If that's the outcome, that's fine but that's not the intent," Terfehr said. "The intent was to reward the actual feat. We have a campaign called "Go for Greatness." We like to be on the lookout for things like this and this was something we thought we could recognize. It just felt like a good thing to do."

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Jack Lavery and his parents (via Twitter)

Pizza Hut will surely get some positive press for its gesture because Philadelphia-area and national media outlets have spotlighted West Chester's controversial decision not to give Lavery his prize money.

Although Lavery sank all four shots in the 25 seconds allotted to him, his one-handed fallaway shot from mid-court came after he secured the rebound of his initial miss from that distance. The contract he signed prior to participating in the contest dictated that he had as many tries as required at the layup, free throw and 3-pointer but he needed to have sunk the first attempt at the half-court shot to have won.

Bill Lavery, Jack's father, said his son didn't have time to read every detail of the contract since he was informed he had been chosen to participate from a random drawing about three minutes prior to halftime. Everyone in the gym assumed Lavery had won the prize because the emcee not only didn't stop the contest when Lavery missed the initial half court shot but also encouraged him to chase down the rebound and try again before the final buzzer.

West Chester athletic director Edward Matejkovic sympathizes with the Lavery family but was adamant on Monday that the school has no intention of paying the prize money.

"He only gets one shot and he knew the rules going in," Matejkvovic said. "We bought an insurance policy, so our money is gone. It's not that we don't want the kid to win the money, but the rules are pretty clear and no insurance company is going to pay up on that.

"I feel bad for the kid if he thought he won but we told him right afterward that he only had one shot. It wasn't that he left there thinking he won. He was told it didn't count because he needed to make the first shot."

Even though Lavery still feels cheated by his school, he is thrilled that Pizza Hut stepped in and made sure he didn't come out of this empty-handed.

"I feel incredibly blessed and honored to be awarded the generous gift of $10,000 and free pizza for a year!" Lavery tweeted Tuesday. "Thank you @pizzahut. You guys rock."

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