by Aaron Garcia
Hundreds of thousands of eyes watching you lay in a game-winning shot is the stuff of childhood dreams.
But not like this.
With his Charlotte Christian boys basketball team clinging to a one-point lead in the late stages of its Jan. 21 game against Georgia’s Norcross High School, senior Knights forward Ryan Potocnik made a defensive play at half court that caused the opponent to lose the ball out of bounds. Charlotte Christian had possession and, seemingly, the win.
Potocnik received the inbounds pass and rushed toward the rim for an easy, wide-open layup. The score all but wrapped up the win.
You see, in the excitement, Potocnik drove in and scored on the wrong goal. The basket gave Norcross the lead with just seconds to go, snapping the Knights’ three-game winning streak with a 60-57 loss.
Potocnik was initially crushed but said his team, both players and coaches, were understanding and encouraging after the flub. Roughly two weeks after the team’s return from Georgia, the clip of the play on YouTube went from just a few viewers to several hundred thousand. Suddenly, it was being shown on national sites such as Yahoo.com and thehuffingtonpost.com.
“You don’t really expect to log into Yahoo to check your email and see your face right at the top of the page,” said Potocnik. “It was a surreal experience.”
The play briefly marred what has otherwise been a strong season for the 6-foot-7 senior, who has helped soften the blow of losing standout forwards such as Anthony Gill (2011 graduate) and Akil Mitchell (2010), who have graduated and matriculated to South Carolina and Virginia, respectively.
After earning heavy minutes as a sophomore and a junior, Potocnik is averaging 11.7 points, eight rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots for the 22-6 Knights while also standing second on the team in assists with two per outing.
“He’s experienced and it shows, because in every game, he doesn’t waver,” Christian coach Shonn Brown said. “He’s improved each year he’s been in our program, and he’s worked hard to get to the point he is now.”
Now, as the Knights prepare for the private-school Cass 3A state tournament, Potocnik will shoulder a heavy load as the team’s prominent post presence in a setting that’s sure to be filled with them.
Considering the past month, Potocnik is ready for just about anything.
“I think (that experience) will help,” he said. “There’s really not much more adversity you could go through than having a video of you scoring on the wrong basket go viral across the entire nation.”