For someone who tore up the Pittsburgh City League to the tune of 28.3 points per game during his senior year of high school, Darrick Suber had surprisingly few options upon graduation in 1989.
Back then, it would have been farfetched to imagine a day when the 6-3 combo guard would be mentioned in the same breath as some of the other esteemed, basketball-playing alumni of Schenley High School. After all, the now-defunct Schenley had produced Kenny Durrett, the fourth pick of the 1971 NBA draft, and Maurice Lucas, a four-time All-Star and champion with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977. More recently, DeJuan Blair of the Washington Wizards added his name to the pantheon of renowned graduates of the school. (Andy Warhol, the pioneer of pop art, and jazz legend George Benson also attended Schenley.)
Suber accepted the only Division I scholarship offered to him – from St. Francis of Brooklyn. However, when his mother, Sherry Suber, drove him to campus for his first semester and saw the college’s meager living conditions, she didn’t even let him unpack his bags. She turned their U-Haul around and told Darrick he could enroll at nearby Pitt or Robert Morris and perhaps try to walk on to the team.
“I don’t believe there was electricity in the building Darrick was supposed to live in,” Sherry told the Philaldelphia Inquirer in 1993. “There were no lights, no nothing. And a block in any direction and, boy, it was scary. I wasn’t going to let Darrick go there.”
Darrick phoned a friend from a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. The friend had just arrived at Rider, a small college in Lawrenceville, N.J., and decided to call Kevin Bannon, the school’s new basketball coach, on Suber’s behalf. It turned out that Bannon had a scholarship available, and he gave it to Suber.
It worked out well for both parties.
More than 20 years after the conclusion of Suber’s unprecedented career with the Broncs, no one has scored more points than his program-record 2,219. Nor has another coach since Bannon led Rider to the NCAA Tournament.
“The reason Darrick wasn’t highly recruited,” said Bannon, “is that he was considered a slasher in high school.”
At Rider, Suber transformed his suspect jump shot into one the Broncs rode into the 1993 NCAA Tournament and eternity.
Suber’s heroics that year as a senior are relived annually during college basketball’s championship week. Down a point to Wagner with four seconds left in the Northeast Conference title tilt, the host Broncs had possession of the ball 94 feet from their basket. Suber cradled the in-bounds in front of Wagner’s bench, traversed the floor in four dribbles, and drilled a floater from the elbow at the buzzer. The Shot, as it has since become known on the Lawrenceville campus, punched Rider’s ticket to the Big Dance and unleashed a flood of ecstasy throughout the 2,000 fans in attendance and millions more watching on ESPN.
“I was supposed to be a decoy on the play,” Suber, who played briefly as a professional in New Zealand, told Today’s U. “That didn’t sit well with me. One thing I learned about the end of close games was that the other team would be nervous and not want to foul. Sure enough, my defender backed off, so I got the ball and went straight down the court. And when I let it go, I knew it was good.”
Never mind that, a week later, the Broncs trailed Jamal Mashburn-led Kentucky by 39 points at halftime and lost by 44 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Suber’s shot is a microcosm of the magic that is March Madness, and in the Information Age of Internet searches and YouTube videos, it will be replayed in perpetuity.
The Broncs made the tournament the following season after Suber’s departure, and they haven’t been back since.
“It was a pivotal time in Rider’s career,” Bannon told the Times of Trenton last year. “Its Division I status was in the air. We were out of the East Coast Conference. We landed in the Northeast Conference, and there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went into it for us. Rider was clearly crying out for a winner. It wasn’t like we recruited these beasts. The whole program grew together.”
Suber, who learned how to play in the projects of Pittsburgh, now could not be farther from where he grew up. But his roots are never far from his mind.
“The Shot is always a big topic of conversation in my life and back at Rider,” said Suber, who lives in suburban Seattle and works in online advertising for mammoth brands like Microsoft, Nike, and Red Bull. “There was a lot behind the scenes that went into those four seconds that everyone remembers.”