Sports have seen some impressive last-ditch, Hail Mary shots from distant corners of the court, but few people have witnessed the likes of Kristen Daley’s bucket from the middle of the Palestra stands.
Many teams have pregame rituals that hype up the players before games. Penn women’s basketball's ritual occurs when senior guard Kristen Daley walks up into the famed Palestra bleachers, gets her footing near an entrance tunnel, and throws up a shot.
Come game day, the Quakers have a casual shootaround as a way to prepare for warm-ups. One part of this shootaround is a coaches versus players half-court shot competition. The coaches and players line up at the center of the court and aim to somehow throw the ball through the hoop.
From this game, Daley’s shot from the Palestra stands was born.
“I don’t know where I got the idea to actually go up there, but I went up there before [playing] Villanova last year and I made it on the first try,” Daley said. “We ended up winning that game.”
That same year, the Quakers had a consequential game against Temple, where a victory would clinch a Big 5 title for Penn. After the half-court competition, Daley went into the stands again and sunk the shot.
“It took a couple tries and everyone was recording it, but I got it again," she said. "Then we won. That was when it was like ‘oh this is a thing that’s going to happen now.’”
This season, Daley’s beloved shot has made a return.
“I brought it back this season and I made it before Princeton, so now I’m in the headlines as every time I make a shot from up there, we don’t lose.”
The shot amped up the team, and although correlation does not necessarily imply causation, Daley’s track record is starting to show a relationship between trick shots and winning games.
The background of Daley’s trick shots dates back to her childhood.
“Growing up, [my sisters and I] were always really competitive, so we would play HORSE and we just came up with the weirdest shots ever," she said. "We had a trampoline and a court in our backyard so we would shoot from the trampoline.”
Ultimately, Daley’s famous shots are meant to get the Quakers ready for game time. The whole team gets to partake in some of the fun.
“We literally look forward to that every pregame shootaround,” senior guard Ashley Russell said. “Everybody makes a tunnel around the basket leading up to her shooting, and we all have balls ready to feed to her and we all stand around the basket.”
Neither Daley, Russell, nor assistant coach Kelly Killion believe that if Daley makes the shot from the stands, the team will have a lucky day. Rather, it serves to get the team ready to play.
“It’s more of a hype [thing] for our kids,” Killion said. “It’s something that gets them loose and [makes them] enjoy the moment, and it kind of takes the pressure off of the game-day feel.”
“I wouldn’t say superstitious, but it is always good sign and it gets everyone really hype. If it turns into superstition I’m going to have to come in and practice more,” Daley joked.
If she can make a shot from that far up in the Palestra, there’s a good chance she would be able to make it from anywhere on the court as well.
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