It was Magic.
On three occasions during the season, with the final horn ready to go off each time, Seattle University's Frank Oleynick let fly with a heroic shot that rippled through the net and decided everything. All of these game-winners came on the road. None had more degree of difficulty than the first one, a 28-footer that handed St. Mary's a stunning 72-70 defeat.
"It was the luckiest shot in the world -- but I'll take it," Oleynick said.
On Feb. 1, 1974, in Moraga, Calif., the sophomore guard nicknamed "Magic," emerged from a timeout with instructions to drive to the basket and dump the ball off to teammate Rod Derline. Oleynick was forced to adlib. He did this well.
"They double-teamed me and I just put it up," he said.
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 25th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Oleynick's game-decider at St. Mary's capped his greatest performance with the Chieftains. The flashy Bridgeport, Conn., product finished with a career-best 45 points, dropping in 17 of 25 shots (there was no 3-point range) and 11 of 13 foul shots.
Two weeks later, he did his buzzer-beating wizardry again. In Malibu, Calif., Oleynick sank a high-arching corner jumper under heavy guard with no time on the clock, sending Pepperdine to a 72-71 overtime defeat and capping a 30-point night for himself.
A month and a half earlier, Oleynick and the Chieftains were playing Penn State in the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City when he drilled home a 19-footer with one second remaining for an electrifying 62-60 victory.
"It was in when it left my hand," said the often confident Oleynick, who finished with 18 points, which was a modest total for him.
That game-clincher capped a furious 22-5 rally for SU over the game's final nine minutes.
Oleynick played three seasons for the Chiefs, averaging 25.1 points per game as a sophomore while becoming the WCAC Most Valuable Player and a somewhat legendary figure. He upped his average to 27.3 as a junior. He practically lived in the gym, practicing alone after SU practices, and looking for games everywhere. He dribbled from class to class.
A future No. 1 draft pick for the Seattle Sonics, Oleynick fronted an interesting '73-74 SU lineup: He teamed with Derline, a guard who likewise joined the Sonics; forward Ron Howard, later a tight end for the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys; Reggie Green, a greatly undersized center, and point guard Ed "Bucky" O'Brien, the son of the similarly named Chieftains legend.
"It worked out great," Oleynick said of his SU career. "The only thing I regret is I was such a gym rat and so focused on basketball, I never really enjoyed the things the city had to offer."
People in Salt Lake City, Malibu and Moraga wish he had got out more, too.
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