Jan. 28, 2010


INDIANAPOLIS---The Kansas high school basketball coach who became an Internet and news sensation after improbably sinking a half-court shot during a school pep rally will attend the 2010 NCAA Men's Final Four after all -- as a guest of the NCAA.

Joel Branstrom, head girls basketball coach at Olathe (Kan.) Northwest High School, took the shot while blindfolded during a pep rally at the school's gymnasium Jan. 22. Students told the popular coach that if he made the shot he would receive tickets to the Men's Final Four.

What they did not plan for was the former Kansas University walk-on to actually make the shot. When he did, stunned and ecstatic students celebrated, but those who organized the contest had one problem: they did not actually have tickets for Branstrom to go the Final Four. Once video taken by the school's multimedia department surfaced online, the story received national attention.

"When they dressed me up and put a blindfold on me, I was prepared to get hit in the face with a pie," said Branstrom. "I didn.t know for over a minute that I actually made it. If it wasn't on tape, I probably still wouldn't believe it."

"This is a unique circumstance. Coach Branstrom is an educator, former student-athlete, head women's basketball coach, and apparently, a pretty good outside shot. When we first got word of Coach's shot, this was a 'no-brainer' -- he'll be in Indianapolis as a guest of the Association," said Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's senior vice president for basketball and business strategies. "The fact that he took the prank in good stride speaks volumes about his character. We're excited to have Joel and his family at the Final Four as guests of the NCAA."

"Even though I was part of a great team at the University of Kansas, we didn't make it to the Final Four when I played," Branstrom said. "I am excited for the opportunity to participate in the greatest weekend of basketball at the 2010 Final Four."

The Final Four takes place April 3 and 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.