Nothing says beating the odds like making a half-court basketball shot. That’s exactly what Excell Academy’s academic dean did in front of a packed gym after making 12 other shots in a row during a game of Around the World. It was caught on video and now he is challenging all NBA and WNBA players to do the same.

Justin Balvin loves basketball and he also loves the school he leads in Brooklyn Park. His passion for both is the driving force behind the Beating the Odds Challenge and his hope of earning money for his school.

“I grew up in South Dakota and played a lot of basketball,” said Balvin, “but I certainly wasn’t expecting to knock them all down in the first assembly.”

Shocked students screamed and cheered as Balvin made each shot. The pre-K through eighth-grade school has a 96 percent free- and reduced-price lunch population but was selected as a Star Tribune “Beating the Odds” school in 2015 because of its academic performance.

Balvin wants professional players or any basketball fans to try the challenge. If they can’t make 13 shots in a row, Balvin hopes they will contribute money to the school, which is in need of a technology upgrade and a playground. The school has turned to Twitter with the hashtag #beatingtheoddschallenge in its quest.

The school hasn’t heard from any big names yet, but employees hope the social media campaign and video help bring attention to their effort and to a school that is helping students achieve. While Balvin has many fans in his building, he is not ready to give up his day job just yet.

“My kids ask me, ‘Why aren’t you playing in the NBA?’ laughed Balvin. “I have to remind them I am 6 feet tall, almost 36 years old and considerably out of shape.”


Vineeta Sawkar

Twitter: @vsawkar