On a May afternoon while practicing at Deerfield (Massachusetts) Academy in Deerfield, Pat Dickert extended his arm toward the net, staring at the camera before he attempted to dunk from the free-throw line.
The 6-foot-2 Colby College junior guard had dunked before, but he had yet to throw it down from the free-throw line, a feat he'd been working toward for about five years.
As Dickert ran to the line, he leapt toward the basket. The slow motion video made it seem like he was in the air forever.
As Dickert flew through the air, silence filled the gym. But when he arrived at the rim, the eerie silence dissipated—then, WHAM!, the ball went through the rim, and the clanking sound of the hoop filled the gym.
He had finally done it.
Dickert's dunk was part of an Instagram video series he does on Tuesdays called #TakeFlightTuesday. He started the series during his senior year of high school, simply throwing down dunks with friends after workouts. During the series, Dickert has done reverse dunks and tomahawk dunks.
But the Colby College player never suspected that his hashtag would take flight like it has. USA Today has called him "the next great college dunker." His free-throw line dunk has attracted 249,000 views.
"I really don't know what I want to accomplish with this dunking thing right now," Dickert said. "It's just been a fun thing for me to enjoy."
When Dickert first tried the dunk, he was on a high school student exchange trip in Norway. He became friends with a group of club basketball players there, and the group nicknamed him Luft Norge, which translates to "Air Norway."
Sanders Nymo, one of Dickert's Norwegian friends, characterized Dickert with one phrase: "earned, not given."
Dickert put in hard work to accomplish the dunk, but it was still difficult.
He recently started using Bounce Kit, a dunk training program created by professional dunker Jordan Kilganon. Professional dunkers like Kilganon compete in dunk contests around the nation, posting videos on Instagram and other social media to help improve their personal brands.
Kilganon competed on TNT's The Dunk King, a dunk contest show that was televised in May after the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Kilganon has been involved in the dunk community for about eight years, and he recently came onto the national scene because of his appearance on The Dunk King.
The dunk community consists of guys like Kilganon, Guy Dupuy and Haneef "Young Hollywood" Munir. Dupuy and Munir were also contestants on The Dunk King. But Kilganon is considered the leader of the community.
"I don't know, it's kind of cool, especially since I was a huge part of it [the community]," Kilganon said. "I was full on into it. I wasn't like a nobody."
Though Bounce Kit helped Dickert become more of a leaper, it was prior weight training that created his foundation.
"I've been focusing on explosive power, so you know in the past I've gone to heavier weights," Dickert said about his training before Bounce Kit. "I think it's better that I create a more athletic base than a strength base because I'm almost 190 pounds."
It's important for Dickert to maintain that weight. Anything higher would likely hinder his athleticism. If he weighed more, it would be harder to explode off the ground, thus reducing his potential dunking ability.
Kilganon endorses this sort of explosive training. He has found that taking fewer, but more explosive, reps with light weight is more effective for increasing his dunking ability.
The exercise teaches your body to perform one explosive rep, which helps with dunking. Dunking requires maximum explosion from your legs to propel your body up to the basket.
Dickert also said a one-year stint running track during his freshman year of college helped improve his explosion. Track athletes focus on maximizing power per pound of body weight.
"I mean right now where I am, it's worked best for me to sort of play the halfway ground and do fairly heavy weight but focus more on the speed and explosiveness, which I do in reps," Dickert said.
Dickert got in touch with Kilganon through social media, and the two men plan on training together this summer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
"I think once I get him with the technique that he has, I think he should be getting between the legs from the free-throw line, behind the back from the free-throw line, like doing like all these ridiculous trick dunks," Kilganon said. "I think he has like so much untapped potential, it's crazy."
An Energetic Child of the World Who Wants To Play Professional Basketball
Dickert's love of travel has helped him gain perspective on life outside the U.S. He learned to speak Norwegian on a conversational level in less than a year, and he knows some Mandarin as well.
"He's a child of the world," said his Northampton basketball coach, Rey Harp.
In China, they call him Gao Fei, which has two translations: Goofy, the dog from Mickey Mouse, and fly high.
Dickert got the name when he did an internship for a company in Beijing before his freshman year of college. He would go to the local courts to play basketball, and the people there gave him the nickname because of his height and what he calls his high-energy persona.
"I just want to have a good time with people," Dickert said. "I really enjoy hanging out with people and being funny and keeping things light."
Besides traveling to Norway and China, Dickert will do research next summer in Taiwan. The research will be part of a global project for the Education Department at Colby. He will collect data on the culture of the country and will likely do interviews with prep school students and faculty members on their various learning experiences.
"I really have a great interest in traveling around, meeting new people, understanding different perspectives on the world," Dickert said.
The perspective Dickert has gained during his travels will help him. He loves learning languages and meeting new people, which will assist in his dream of playing professional basketball overseas.
The Colby College player doesn't just want to be able to dunk on people—he wants to have an entire package of skills as he pursues his dream.
"I don't think I'm going to be a professional dunker, because again my aspirations are more in actually being a professional player," Dickert said.
He would like to play in Germany or Italy, and Spain would be a great place to play, he said. But Dickert is a Division-III player, and he will have to work vigorously to get his name out to European basketball coaches.
He'll need to attend European showcases, which are like the NBA Combine. The process will be long and arduous.
But Dickert isn't worried. It's all about pursuing his dream. "It's me chasing my dream and I'm willing to do the work for it," he said.
Despite the challenges he faces getting onto the Euro circuit, Dickert's strong work ethic and social skills will help him succeed. Brooklyn Nets director of player development Adam Harrington has known Dickert since the Colby guard was a sophomore in high school. When Dickert first met Harrington, he asked how much it would cost to train him.
Harrington, who was Kevin Durant's former trainer, knows better than anyone that Dickert will find his way onto a professional team somehow.
"Pat's gift is, if he doesn't get recruited, he's going to probably walk into some gym in Germany and ask the coach to practice with him, and before you know it he's going to be on the team," Harrington said.
Success Doesn't Breed Complacency
From USA Today calling Dickert "the next great college dunker" to the dunk getting 249,000 views on Instagram, the down-to-earth dunker has not let the free-throw line dunk swell his ego.
It's important for him to remember his support system, which includes his family, friends from Norway, Harrington and Harp.
"He does not change as a good person although he became more famous," said Peder Høgsveen, a friend of Dickert's from Norway.
Harrington and others in Dickert's circle emphasize his strong work ethic as one of the guard's greatest traits. Dickert didn't consider himself a leaper in Norway, but his hard work has been a constant.
"He sweats like a war pig," Harrington said.
"He's always been a gym rat," Harp said.
So what's next for Dickert? He wants to pursue professional basketball, but he still has one dunk he'd like to pull off—the between the legs dunk from the free throw line that Zach LaVine did at the 2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
"As the summer goes on, I might give it another shot," Dickert said. "And hopefully that will work out and I'll be able to hit the dunk."
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