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An oral history of Virginia Basketball’s 2007 win over Duke

ACC Men's Basketball Tournament
The 2006-07 team, shown here in a file photo, provided on of the all-time UVa basketball thrillers in the first year of John Paul Jones Arena
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

In advance of tonight’s game between No. 14 Virginia and No. 12 Duke in Charlottesville, Streaking The Lawn is taking you on a trip down memory lane as we remember the 2007 game against the Blue Devils in JPJ - featuring none other than The Shot from Sean Singletary.

For this story, we spoke to:

-JR Reynolds, a shooting guard who played at UVA from 2003-07.

-Myron Ripley, a lifelong resident of the Charlottesville area and a UVA alumnus who works in various capacities at UVA games.

-Mac McDonald, the radio voice of the Cavaliers from 1981-85 and 1996-2008.

Darney: The lead up to the game was just insane. I remember watching UVA make this epic comeback on the road at Clemson the game before the Duke game as Jason Cain tipped in the game winner with 15 seconds left after the Hoos were down big at Littlejohn Coliseum. There was so much excitement on Grounds for this game.

Reynolds: The Clemson game was a big victory for us while on the road. I think they lost one game at the time and us coming back from being down double digits at halftime to win was a big confidence boost for the team. Everybody was hyped for the Duke game.

Darney: UVA still had the SHOTS system (for student tickets), but there were students camping out for a couple days before the game to get the best possible seats within their sections.

Reynolds: I remember going to practice and noticed the students camping out. It meant a lot for the players knowing what extremes the students would do to show support for the team.

Ripley: I was working the game like I do always, running stats. I was in the tunnel behind the team, I remember it just being crazy in terms of - it wasn't the zoo necessarily, but it was a lot of damn people. It was the first year of the John Paul Jones Arena, and I think that's probably what sort of was part of the excitement of it was. We have this brand new arena and we opened it earlier in the year with a victory over Arizona. All of a sudden, Duke comes in here. I think at that point, if I remember correctly, the team had been playing relatively well, but they had been a little erratic. I remember that game, the buildup where it was one of the first games where we had a little bit of momentum with playing well.

McDonald: If there was a storyline [for that team], JR [Reynolds] and Sean [Singletary] were not - Dave Leitao probably never gets Christmas cards from [them]. There was not much love lost there with those guys. I think Leitao put a lot on them, wanted them to be leaders … JR and Sean were not motivated by a screamer. They weren’t motivated by a guy that was just literally going to lose it all the time in practice and that kind of thing. I think they were motivated by winning and they wanted somebody that was going to be good from a tactician standpoint and a strategy standpoint.

One time, [former UVA radio analyst Jim Hobgood] was interviewing JR [during practice], he asked JR about Leitao. And I’ll never forget, JR never said a word to Hobo, he took his finger and he brought it up to his ear - in one ear, out the other. It was the funniest expression, that basically with sign language he said, “we never listen to Dave Leitao.”

Ripley: Duke was so talented and came in No. 8 in the country. I didn't come into that night saying, “Hey, Virginia is gonna take care of business.” Because Duke, they had [Greg] Paulus, they had [John] Scheyer, they had [Josh] McRoberts, it was a talented team. We had not played Duke very well for years. I think it was the first time we had beaten them in eons. It really had been a house of horrors for us against Duke that we really hadn't had much luck at all against them.

Hobeck: As part of the admissions process for the high school I went to, I had to take an official visit and sit in on some classes. I don’t know why this sticks out in my head, but my visit happened to fall on the day of the game. I remember in one of the classes I went to, I was the only person who thought UVA had a chance, let alone would actually win. They thought I was just some crazy homer, and they were right.

Darney: The arena was NUTS. I remember my friends and I were first row student section (right behind the UVA families) and we made tee-shirts that said “Beat Duke” and had all sorts of posters (HOOS YOUR MAMADI...I should bring that one back). We were down at the half, but there was still this buzz in the arena. There always is when you play Duke. Nothing seems impossible.

Reynolds: Everybody was positive because we were right there in the game. We just had to make some adjustments going into the second half.

McDonald: There was a play in that game when Singletary in the second half literally looked at Leitao and said, “what the [expletive] are we in?!”

Darney: JR absolutely went off in the second half. I think he had 19 of his 25 points in the second half, and that even includes the fact that he was struggling with cramps. I remember when he went down with a leg cramp in the second half under our basket, but the refs let play continue and Duke went down and buried a three-pointer playing five-on-four. I was ... umm ... let’s just go with “not happy.”

Reynolds: I went for a shot and came down and felt a cramp in my leg. I thought to myself out of all the games, why would I get a cramp now. I wasn't going to let that keep me out of the game.

Darney: When Sean Singletary tied it up in regulation, Joyce Leitao (Coach Leitao’s wife, and one of the most wonderful people ever) sat down and exhaled looking back at my friend Ashley and I and said, “man, I need a drink”. We nodded solemnly in agreement.

Darney: Overtime was insane. If I recall correctly, Virginia scored first, putting Duke a little back on their heels. It was 66-all when Jon Scheyer tried to make a move on Solomon Tat. Tat played ridiculously good defense, forcing Scheyer to take a shot with the shot clock dwindling that hit the side of the backboard. That set up the most insane thing I’d ever seen.

McDonald: He comes off a high screen, and he goes to the baseline and he got bumped. And we thought he was gonna get the call, but he got hit and that’s why he said, “hey, I had to kind of fade away and throw it up.” But it was typical Sean Singletary. He had a heart the size of Texas.

Ripley: We got a stop, then Sean had the ball and drove to the basket, and … they had good spacing and I think they were worried about JR because he had a pretty good night against them so they were trying to limit him but I also think he had cramps or something. I remember the shot and say “Oh, that's one of the classic plays in UVA history.”

Reynolds: Solomon played great defense on Scheyer to get that stop. The game was tied and we had the last shot. Once the big guy switched on Sean, I knew he could get any shot he wanted. He drove and shot a one handed fade away over two people to hit the game winning shot with. I don't think people realize how tough that shot was to get off and actually make it.

Hobeck: I don’t think I was going too crazy, mainly because I knew there was still some time left, but also because I was just shocked that anybody could knock down a shot like that while falling to the floor.

Darney: I lost my goddamn mind.

McDonald: I have a complaint now with a lot of play-by-play guys because they don’t think the clock is important. And I always felt that when somebody is getting ready to load a game-winning shot, the clock is imperative and people [need to] know, if they’re not around a TV, what the clock is saying. Those kind of situations, you wanted to get right. I had to tell Hobgood “Shut the F up, let’s get this call right.” It was a matter of making sure you watch the clock and get it right and get it as descriptive as you possibly can. And I think that was probably one of my better calls, too.

McDonald: We had the TV monitor and … I don’t think we ever asked [Sean], but it was like he turned and pointed and that became a Singletary moniker. He was just bloodthirsty when it came to basketball.

Ripley: Duke got a pretty damn good look at the basket. They inbounded it and it went all the way down the court, Paulus caught it and got off a three that hit the back of the iron.

Hobeck: That was the ultimate feeling of joy or relief or whatever you want to call it, because as soon as Paulus got the shot off, I’d already resigned myself to it going in because it looked that good. I remember it bounced off the rim so hard it was almost comical, and then I just got goosebumps and watched everyone rush the floor.

Darney: Oh, I 1000% thought that was going in. You could hear the collective breath hold in the arena, and then absolute pandemonium. It was just a game I’ll never forget, a shot I’ll never forget, a moment I’ll never forget, and a score I’ll never forget.

Reynolds: I still get excited talking about that game like it was yesterday. I don't think we lost a home game all that year. Till this day JPJ is the best and toughest place to play in college basketball.

McDonald: Certainly, you could argue [Singletary was] one of the greatest guards to ever play at Virginia, and that’s something too when you throw in Jeff Jones and John Crotty and London now. I think Sean, he just had a lot of nights that he was just literally phenomenal in what he did. He was just such a great kid too, off the floor.