Maynor's shot propels him to legend status, still haunts Duke
HAVERFORD, Pa. -- Let's be honest: If Eric Maynor doesn't bury that shot over Jon Scheyer to knock Duke out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round in March, is the Virginia Commonwealth guard at the Pan Am Games trials?
He's not sure. But one thing is undisputable. Making that 17-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left for the Rams' stunning 79-77 win over the Blue Devils gave Maynor opportunities he might not have had this summer.
"It's probably one of the worst memories I've ever had," Scheyer said. Coincidentally, Scheyer and Maynor found themselves on opposite teams during Thursday's first practice at the Pan Am trials in Haverford, Pa.
Late Saturday night, Maynor continued to beat Duke players, even if they weren't directly competing for the same spot. Maynor made the weekend cut to 14 players at the U.S. Pan Am Games team tryouts. Scheyer did not. Neither did Duke's DeMarcus Nelson, although Nelson didn't have a shot after he injured his left wrist on the first day of the trials.
"It's a tough way to end the season, to lose a tournament," Scheyer said of that March loss. "Hopefully I can look back and say that it was a low point and look where it got us."
That one shot put Maynor in position to be considered one of the top point guards in the country. He said he's getting more and more recognition for the jumper -- his only one that game. He said he made the move on instinct after going to the hole often.
"I'm the type of player who wants to take a shot like that," said Maynor, who at the time called the shot "a dream come true. I'm in the backyard playing basketball, dreaming about it."
For a kid from North Carolina, burying one of the ACC monarchies was the perfect script. Just like George Mason's run two seasons ago that included knocking off big boys Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut, the Rams' win over Duke carries more cachet than if they had beaten a Missouri Valley squad at the buzzer.
But now the key will be: What will Maynor do for an encore? The Rams nearly took out Pitt in the second round before losing in overtime. Gone from that squad are guards B.A. Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Maynor anchors a starting five that includes three seniors: Wil Fameni, Jamal Shuler and Michael Anderson. And Rams coach Anthony Grant brought in seven newcomers, including notable additions Lance Kearse and Joey Rodriguez, both top-50 players at their respective positions according to Scouts Inc.
|Pan Am Games team|
Joey Dorsey, F, Memphis
Wayne Ellington, G, North Carolina
Shan Foster, G/F, Vanderbilt
James Gist, F, Maryland
Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown
Maarty Leunen, F, Oregon
Derrick Low, G, Washington State
Eric Maynor, G, Virginia Commonwealth
Drew Neitzel, G, Michigan State
Scottie Reynolds, G, Villanova
Kyle Weaver, G, Washington State
D.J. White, F, Indiana
Head coach: Jay Wright, Villanova
Assistants: Mark Gottfried, Alabama; James Jones, Yale Preliminary round:
Uruguay (Wednesday, 9 p.m. EDT)
Panama (Thursday, 6:45 p.m.)
Argentina (Fri., July 27, 6:45 p.m.) The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal round.
Seminfinals (Sat., July 28)
Finals (Sun., July 29)
That still could be far-fetched and could have been a reach if Grant had bolted for Florida. Grant was the favorite to replace Gators coach Billy Donovan when Donovan accepted and signed on to be the Orlando Magic coach. But 24 hours later, Donovan wanted out of his deal and eventually, by the middle of the ensuing week, he was back at Florida. Throughout the ordeal, Maynor said Grant kept him informed of where he stood with the search.
"He was talking to us all the time and letting us know the situation and what could possibly happen," Maynor said. "Nobody was lost as to what was going on. Everybody was updated every day. I'm glad he's back. I didn't want him to go to Florida because that would have meant three coaches in three years [Jeff Capel to Grant to a new coach if Grant had left]. Because he had been [an assistant at Florida] for 10 years, I think he probably would have left. That's his home in Florida."
Regardless of Grant's decision, Maynor's one shot has made him a local legend. The shot over Duke was something he said "he'll remember for the rest of his life."
Clearly, that's the case for Scheyer, too. The Blue Devils aren't used to bowing out early. They're not used to going 8-8 in the ACC, 22-11 overall or losing double-figure games, either.
"We're using that VCU game as a stepping-stone and for teaching," said Nelson before he injured his wrist. "It left a bad taste in our mouth, and we're using it as motivation for everyone. The players and the staff are motivated to make sure this year is a promising year, to make sure we never feel like that again."
Scheyer said the Blue Devils have to change the atmosphere and work harder than they did before.
"None of them are afraid," Scheyer said. "They're all tough."
"We'll be deeper, more versatile and have the depth to be a championship-caliber team," Nelson said. "We just have to incorporate those players, let them adjust to the college game, and we'll gel."
"We're as talented as any team, and we had leads last year in a lot of games," Scheyer said. "It's about maturity and gaining the extra year of experience. That will make a big difference."
The emotions of one shot sway both ways with VCU and Duke, with Maynor and Scheyer. And it's not likely to end until the season begins anew.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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