Worth a shot: GCU sets knockout basketball record

Students waited in a long line to take their shot at knockout basketball Friday at the Canyon Activity Center.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Mathew McGraw
GCU News Bureau

If you’ve ever wondered how long it would take for more than 701 participants to finish a game of knockout basketball (surely it was at the top of your list), “Welcome Back at the CAC” provided the answer Friday afternoon.

The line of 728 participants zig-zagged through two basketball courts.

Two hours, 33 minutes.

And because the final count was 728, the centerpiece of the innovative Grand Canyon University event at the Canyon Activity Center (CAC) broke the Guinness World Record of 701, previously held by the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association and pending authorization by Guinness.

Knockout, for the uninitiated, is a game using two basketballs that tests your ability to make a free throw – or, if you miss, get the rebound and put the ball in the basket before the player behind you can accomplish that challenge. If the next player’s ball goes in the basket before yours, you’re “knocked out.” It keeps going until only one player is left.

Success usually depends on two skills:

  • Being a really good free throw shooter.
  • Getting to the rebound quickly and scoring on the second try – some players purposely bank the ball off the backboard to minimize the possibility of a wild deflection off the rim.

It’s a game normally played at a fast, continuous pace, with players often hurrying their free throw if they have a chance to knock out the player in front of them. If you have, say, 10 or 15 people, it can be a constant workout for a few minutes. But when you have 728, there’s going to be a lot of waiting.

The registration process alone required a lot of patience Friday. Every player had to sign in and get a green wristband, then form a zig-zag line that stretched almost the length of two basketball courts in the massive CAC. That alone was a sight to see.

The climbing wall was the height of enjoyment for a lot of the attendees.

But even more remarkable was the students’ patience as they waited their turn – the first round lasted just short of an hour, and players who advanced to Round 2 amused themselves by kicking a soccer ball, passing a basketball or spinning a frisbee back and forth.

The ones who were knocked out got the wristband cut off and then could take advantage of the other “Welcome Back” activities, such as volleyball, table tennis, pickup basketball, a fitness challenge or the grand opening of the new climbing wall. There also was a spirited visit by the Cheer and Dance teams and Thundering Heard Pep Band, and everyone in attendance also could enjoy “walking tacos” – taco meat, cheese and toppings in a bag of Doritos or Fritos.

Adding to the delay was the need to change the battery in the GoPro atop the backboard after almost every round – the competition had to be on video for Guinness to accept its veracity.

Students also could accept the challenge of a fitness course.

“I’m just impressed by how everyone’s being chill,” said Matt Lamb, Director of Campus Recreation and the organizer of this highly unusual competition. “That speaks to our student culture.”

There was a mild bit of panic when Lamb and his staff finished signups and were about 10 people short of the record, but there were plenty of other potential knockout recruits on the other eight courts. The record was broken with room to spare.

“It seems like a simple concept,” Lamb said. “But executing it …”

The official record-setter (No. 702) was Rodrick Jones of Colorado Springs, Colo., who was knocked out in the third round and got one of the many prizes, raffle and otherwise, that were handed out.

The winning shot by Brady Miller (in background) flies toward the basket before the player in front of him can score.

By then, each round was taking no more than 10 minutes, and as the number of competitors dwindled and their competitiveness became more intense, it became more like normal knockout. It was down to 26 players after 11 rounds, and 10 minutes later there was a champion – freshman Brady Miller of Portland, Ore.

Miller estimated that he made almost 80% of his free throws, so it’s no wonder he kept advancing. His winning shot also was a free throw, but it still took him a second to process it.

“When I realized I won, I kind of got scared,” said Miller, who got his choice of prizes and chose a JBL Pulse Bluetooth speaker.

There was plenty of other activity at the event, which drew an estimated 1,000 students. Most noticeable was the climbing wall, which was scaled by 125 students after GCU’s highly athletic mascot, Thunder, went first.

Anyone who’s afraid of heights probably has a simple question: Why would you want to don a harness, climb a wall and rappel back down?

“It’s the feeling you get when you get to the top,” said Devin Dorn, the climbing wall coordinator. “There are a lot of different ways you can do it. It’s a feeling accomplishment.”

The climbing wall’s hours are noon-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

Miller was startled after he had won the 2-hour, 33-minute competition.

The cost:

  • Semester pass – $30
  • Semester pass with gear – $45
  • Day pass – $8
  • Day pass with gear – $12

But that’s just one of the CAC’s many attractions. Students also can sign up for various intramurals that will take place there: Indoor soccer starts in early September, and basketball, volleyball, badminton and pickleball also are on the schedule.

The 136,000-square-foot facility on Missouri Avenue between 29th Avenue and 30th Drive also has a convenience store, locker rooms, a weight room and a huge lounge area with sofas and high tables. There’s a scoreboard for each court, and all 10 were resurfaced recently.

It was a cool event in more ways than one.

Lamb had several takeaways about the event he had spent so much time planning:

“We got a lot of people to the CAC, which was the goal.

“We broke the record, which was the goal.

“Everyone was very engaged.

“Everyone who participated followed the rules.

“The building can hold a lot of people.

“And the best part about it is that everyone was in air conditioning for this event.”

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Just like that, Canyon Activity Center is a big hit

GCU Today: GCU INsider: Canyon Pizza, the CAC and so much more

GCU Today: 'Amazing building:' CAC wows basketball campers


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