There’s more good news for the college basketball player who sank a promotional half-court shot for $20,000 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game last month. Cameron Rodriguez is getting the money tax free, saving him more than $3,000.
The sophomore at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, will keep the full amount because it was presented as an academic scholarship, Brenda Hicks, the school’s director of financial aid, said in an e-mail, noting that the check arrived last night.
“That’s extra sugar, whipped cream, chocolate and everything,” Rodriguez, who hit the 47-foot shot on Nov. 18, said in a telephone interview. “It helps me out so much more than it would have after taxes.”
Had Rodriguez simply claimed the prize money, he would’ve had to pay about $3,225 in federal and state taxes, according to Robert Raiola, a certified public accountant who specializes in sports and entertainment. That calculation was based on a single person with no other income who is claimed as a dependent by his parents, said Raiola, the sports and entertainment senior group manager at Cranford, New Jersey-based Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa LLC.
The 6-foot-6 Rodriguez earlier this week received a rules exception from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which said he could use the money to pay tuition without losing any athletic eligibility.
All of Southwestern College’s 1,700 students receive financial aid through institutional grants to help with the $23,000 annual tuition, Hicks said. The school is handling Rodriguez’s prize money as a private scholarship that’ll be applied to his account by the time he graduates, she said.
Rodriguez said his tuition, including room, board and books, is about $33,000 annually. About $10,000 of that is covered by a $4,000 athletic scholarship and grants, he said. The rest is paid for by student loans and assistance from his parents.
The half-court shot promotion held at every Thunder home game is sponsored by Oklahoma City-based MidFirst Bank, whose Chief Executive Officer, G. Jeffrey Records Jr., is a limited partner in the team.
Rodriguez said he would have forfeited the money if the NAIA ruled that accepting the money required him to sit out a year of collegiate basketball. NAIA rules say athletes can’t use their athletic ability or notoriety for financial reward, including prizes from promotions in their sport of focus.
Rodriguez is one of five who have hit the half-court shot at Chesapeake Energy Arena this year.
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