NBA half-court shot winnings become Southwestern scholarship

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:32:38 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 10 2013 09:44:33 PM CST

A Southwestern College basketball player who won $20,000 by sinking a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder promotion will be able to keep the money in scholarship form, the college announced Tuesday.

For the 6'7" sophomore, making a half-court shot may happen at practice a few times every 20 shots or so. But what are the chances of making it in front of thousands of people at halftime of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game?

"I've made them before. But the chances are so small. Like, I wouldn't ever bet that I would make it," said Cameron Rodriguez.

Nov. 18, Rodriguez was standing in line for a drink at the game against the Denver Nuggets when a representative for the Thunder approached him and asked if he wanted to be in the contest.

"I was like yeah, sign me up," he said.

First, Rodriguez competed against another fan in a free throw battle. "I was confident I would win the free throws. I'm a shooter, that's what I do."

He made eight baskets and moved back to the half-court line. "It was horrible because I was so nervous, I could barely feel my arms. They felt like jello," he said.

Through the goo, the 23-year-old went for the shot and made it.

"Nothing but net. I didn't even know how to react. It was just one of those things where as soon as it happened, you don't expect it to happen so you don't know what to do. You're just like ahhhh.  Just running around, throwing my arms everywhere. I think I knocked Rumble down on accident."

The basket won him $20,000 ... or so he thought.

"I made a joke to all my teammates on twitter, I was like I'm buying everybody a pair of Jordans," said Rodriguez.

The Southwestern basketball player soon found out it was not allowed by the NAIA. Officials gave Rodriguez an ultimatum. He could either take the money or stay on the team.

"I was like, man. I didn't even think about that," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says he would have picked basketball, but he hoped there was another way. After a recommendation from Rodriguez and the Southwestern athletic department, the NAIA decided there was a second option. The money would become a scholarship so Rodriguez could continue to play, an exception to a standard rule. The decision was supported by the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

"We are proud of our student-athlete for doing the right thing in contacting his coach before he did anything," Southwestern College President Dick Merriman said. "We are also proud of the NAIA for doing the right thing in their ruling. I am pleased with this outcome."

Rodriguez saw the news via Twitter Tuesday morning.

"The best quote I heard afterwards was that good things happen to good people for good reasons. So, I take it in stride and I think God has a plan. I think it all happened for a reason," said Rodriguez.

If NAIA officials would have forced Rodriguez to forfeit the money, he asked that it be donated to charity in his name.

Rodriquez says the money will pay for one year of tuition at Southwestern College.