Markus Burden doesn’t consider himself a basketball player. He has only played casual games with friends, he said.
But Thursday night, he made the shot of his lifetime — sinking a basket from halfcourt — and won a semester of free tuition at Ball State University.
“I couldn’t believe I made it. I was going crazy,” said Burden, 18, of Frankfort, who is now a freshman business major at the Muncie, Ind., university. “I keep hearing that I’m going to get a call from the basketball coach.”
He said he had a “great night” celebrating with his new college friends.
The contest was one of several activities during Welcome Week for incoming freshmen, designed to get students acclimated to the campus, college spokeswoman Gail Werner said.
The free spring semester of tuition is worth $11,084 for an out-of-state student such as Markus, she said.
“Wow. This is very awesome,” said his mother, Malinda Burden, admitting that she didn’t believe Markus when he called to tell her the news.
“He kept saying, ‘I won. I won.’ And I heard how excited he was. He knows it’s hard for us to make that tuition. Now I can stop worrying so much about paying for it,” his mother said.
When she dropped her son off at school Wednesday, other students were talking about the contest. Markus’ father, Marvin Burden, of Richton Park, gave him tips on how to make the shot, Malinda Burden said.
“He’s very competitive,” she said of her son. He is also very diverse when it comes to sports. Markus played football for Marian Catholic High School, but also likes to play baseball, scuba dive and golf, she said.
It was the golf coach who selected Burden to participate in a game of musical chairs Thursday night at the Ball State arena, said Tom Taylor, vice president of enrollment, marketing and communications.
All freshmen were in the arena, meeting the coaches and learning the school’s fight song, Taylor said. Five coaches each randomly selected a student to play musical chairs. Markus won, which qualified him to try for the halfcourt shot.
“We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years. No one has ever won before. I had a feeling it was going to happen this year,” Taylor said.
Burden was given three shots, he said, and the third one was “nothing but net.”
“He was so excited. He was running and jumping all around. We were thrilled that someone won,” Taylor said. “It’s always a real fun evening, but this will make it legendary.”
“I had to fight for that last chair, but I’m glad I did,” Markus said of his game of musical chairs.
His first halfcourt shot came close, hitting the net, he said.
“I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of putting it in the right spot and having enough power behind it. I still can’t believe it,” he said.
Markus did not realize he was the first student to win the free tuition.
“That makes it even better,” he said.
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