Abdur Ali couldn't help but be amazed while watching his 9-year-old son, Ayyub, display the foul-shooting marksmanship of a consummate pro.
Competing in the Southeast Regional of The Elks National "HoopsShoot" last weekend, the young Annapolis resident sank all five of his free throws in the third overtime to defeat Jay McKnight of Galax,Va., for the title in the 8-9 division.
With the victory, Ayyub advances to the May 10-12 national championships in Springfield, Mass., which will be conducted in conjunctionwith the National Basketball Association's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Ayyub and the three other players in his age group shot from 4 feet inside the free-throw line. After the first round, he and McKnight were tied for first place, each having netted 21 of 25 shots.
He and McKnight remained deadlocked after the first two overtimes as they each connected on 4 of 5 free-throw attempts. What made Ayyub's performance even more impressive is that he was shooting second.
"I couldn't believe it," said Abdur, still marveling at his son's incredible concentration six days later. "Both times in overtime Ayyub missed his first shots and had to make his last four just to staywith the other kid."
However, McKnight began to wilt to start thethird overtime period and connected on just 3 of 5 attempts.
"(Ayyub) made all five and just closed him out," said Abdur. "But I'll tell you, it was a real thriller. His grandmother was going crazy, and I thought it was all over. All I can say is that he really surprised me."
Before winning the regional title, Ayyub won the Annapolis city title, the district title at Towson State University and the tri-state title (Maryland, Delaware and Washington) -- all for the second time.
Ayyub plays for the 76ers, an 8-10 division squad in Annapolis' Peninsula Athletic League.