Son hits the shot, parents hit the road
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — One son played guard for Illinois at high noon Thursday in the Big Ten tournament in downtown Chicago. Brandon Paul beat Minnesota with a shot at the buzzer.
Another son played forward for Western Michigan on Thursday night in the Mid-American Conference tournament in downtown Cleveland. Darius Paul scored 14 points in a Broncos victory.
It was about 4 p.m. that I caught up with Cliff and Lynda Paul on the phone to see how they were doing, somewhere in northeastern Indiana on Interstate 80, headed east.
“We’re basketball parents,” Lynda said. “This is what we know. At this time of year, we’re pretty locked and loaded.
They had watched in growing excitement as the last seconds ticked away in the Illinois-Minnesota game, the score tied and their son with the basketball, waiting to make his move. And waiting. And waiting, taking the fate of his team upon himself.
“I’m a senior,” he would say later in the Illini locker room. “I want to be the one to make the mistake.”
Except what he made was a jumper from the left wing of the court. Up in the stands, the mother who coached both bothers in AAU knew it was coming.
“When I saw him wave off the point guard, that actually calmed me,” Lynda said. “I know Illinois’ best bet is when the ball is in Brandon’s hands.”
But this was no time to celebrate. Cliff and Lynda had 350 miles to drive, over parts of three states. They waited for their son to do a television interview, posed for pictures, had a quick word with the Illini hero of the hour.
Then it was time to go. They had a 9 p.m. tipoff to make in the next time zone.
“I gave them a hug, and told them to have a safe drive,” Brandon said.
“We’ve done this a lot, so we’ve timed how quickly we need to get out of a facility,” Lynda said. “We’ve checked … [For more on Son hits the shot, parents hit the road, click here.]