The young man in the Colby College jersey stands under the backboard, cradling a basketball and raising one arm high, as if to prove that at 6-foot-2 he is considerably shorter than the hoop. Circling behind the free-throw line, with no visible hesitation, he takes off into the air: legs in full gallop, arms out, head up. With one mighty swoosh, he slams the ball through the net.
Hundreds of thousands of people—possibly as many as a million—have watched that moment since the video of Pat Dickert ’18 went viral last week. From ESPN to CBS, sports websites and broadcasts have been playing the scene over and over to the collective wonder of marveling fans. How exactly does a not-very-tall (by basketball standards) Division III college junior dunk from behind the line—15 feet, to be exact? The viral-video website Right This Minute grilled him on it; the Sporting News conducted an “investigation,” verifying the feat. “Was this a fluke?” Sporting News mused. “Simply put, no.”
“I’ve been working on this for a while,” Dickert said.
Modestly, Dickert did not mention that—in addition to playing guard for the Mules, excelling at his economics major, and working in the community—he has been doggedly perfecting his dunking skills for years. And not just through drills. As a first-year student, he participated in Colby track and field, competing at triple, long, and high jumps to gain the levitation skills necessary to dunk from a distance—say, about 15 feet.
“What you’re seeing there is actually just the long jump,” he said. The long jump multiplied by thousands of hours of practice, he might have said. Dickert is lauded by his coach and others as determined and driven to meet his goals.
The Hatfield, Mass., native has been playing basketball “obsessively” since kindergarten, he said. At the Loomis Chaffee School he caught the eye of NESCAC and Ivy recruiters, ultimately choosing Colby because of the warm welcome he received on campus as a prospective student. “I noticed a really genuine sense of togetherness here,” he said. “People are connected at Colby. They’re happy and warm.”
Basketball may be an obsession, but it is not Dickert’s only interest. A leader on campus, he participates in Colby Cares About Kids, and he is working on a research project with Professor of Education Adam Howard on global educational standardization.
“He’s a unique individual,” said head men’s basketball coach Damien Strahorn ’02. “An excellent student, involved in the community on campus and off, and someone who really connects with others. He is genuine.”
The vast viral appeal of the video came as a surprise to Dickert, who posts widely on social media. “There was absolutely no way I had any expectation of how big this would become,” he said. “It’s wild.”
An earlier video recorded in Colby’s Wadsworth Gymnasium showed Dickert attempting—and coming close—to a dunk from behind the line. That one was also hugely popular on the Internet, but nothing compared to his high-flying late-May success.
For the summer Dickert may continue to work on sinking the ball in spectacular fashion, especially if he feels he needs to replicate the feat. But “dunking isn’t everything,” he said. He wants to continue to work on his ball-handling skills and the other things that made him a valuable player this year, according to his coach.
“My main focus is being a member of the team,” Dickert said. “I’m looking forward to taking a greater leadership role—we had seven seniors graduate—and working toward success there.”