Top of the Morning, Feb. 25, 2018

Top of the Morning, Feb. 25, 2018

That Austin Triplett swished a halfcourt heave during a break in Thursday's Illinois-Purdue basketball game wasn't entirely surprising.

A varsity regular at Dunlap High, "I was known as the kid that made half-court shots," the UI freshman said. "I did it a lot (in practice)."

But he never had 14,000 fans watching then. And he never collected $10,000 for making one.

That was the 19-year-old's reward for burying the 47-footer during a second-half timeout Thursday night. The crowd, which included his parents, Matt and Kristi, went bonkers. Triplett went back to his seat to celebrate with his Orange Krush friends.

"I got a lot of high-fives," he said. "It was awesome."

Notified by text shortly before the promotion that it was his turn — if he replied within five minutes, that is — Triplett said he "was nervous until I got on the court. Then I settled down."

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder averaged about six points a game as a senior. But he never hit a shot like this. "I thought it was short," he said. "I didn't think I got it to the rim."

Triplett, who celebrated late into the night — not on Green Street but with fellow students working on a group project — plans to invest a good chunk of his winnings. I asked him if Brad Underwood had inquired about his eligibility. Good shooters, after all, are hard to find.

"I don't think he's going to call," Triplett said.

Still ...

"It's all pretty surreal," he said. "My whole childhood dream was to play for the Illini. I guess this is the next-best thing."