AUBURN, Maine — On the first day of summer, Jeremy Theriault and his buddies began goofing around with a video camera, a few basketballs and a hoop. On the first day back at school, they were celebrities.
“We’re living the dream,” insisted James Philbrook, sitting with his buddies on the steps outside Edward Little High School in Auburn. “That’s our motto.”
The guys wore matching green basketball jerseys Wednesday with the words “Shots ‘R’ Us” across their chests and the same surprised expression. Their summertime lark — two homemade video compilations of improbable basketball shots — has drawn tens of thousands of hits on YouTube.
The videos sparked the interest of ESPN, which included them Monday on a “Sports Nation” telecast. They have also earned them lots of fans at school.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, at Edward Little, seemingly every teacher took a few minutes to show the video in class. Assistant Principal Steve Galway praised them on the schoolwide intercom.
“We’re not doing it for money,” said Theriault, who used his dad’s handheld digital camera to shoot the videos and edited them. “We haven’t made any. We’re having fun.”
The only tangible things they’ve earned are the jerseys, and they bought those.
The idea for the videos came from a growing niche on YouTube, the Internet video Web site. Groups such as “Dude Perfect” have created a series of short videos compiling outrageous-but-successful basketball shots.
Theriault, a senior who plays on the Edward Little basketball team, gathered his friends. Together, they decided to match what they’d seen online. The group included seven seniors, two juniors and a pair of college sophomores.
They shot for about 10 days around their homes and at the school.
“We didn’t do it forever,” said Branden Lever. Most times, they’d try a shot for five or 10 minutes before trying something else. When they had 30 shots — enough to accompany Black Eyed Peas’ song, “I Gotta Feeling” — they stopped and Theriault began editing.
A couple of days later, the first video, “Shots ‘R’ Us (Amazing Basketball Shots),” was done. Theriault burned a copy onto a DVD and gathered the guys to watch it.
They saw it again and again.
“I couldn’t stop watching it,” said Philbrook.
The shots are compelling.
In one, Tim Mains shoots a basketball from the bed of a buddy’s pickup — backward — without even turning to see the swish. In another, Philbrook launches a hook shot while riding a tractor. The guys toss basketballs from trees and rooftops and bounce them off garages and school walls.
They uploaded the video to YouTube and waited for reaction. It came quickly.
“We told everyone we knew,” Lever said. They posted information on their Facebook sites. As the hits began climbing, they began planning a second video. This time, they went to a camp in Casco owned by the grandparents of two of the teens. There, they spent three days devising insane shots.
Senior Clark Chamberlin spent four hours trying to get a basketball to bounce off a backboard, ricochet across the court, bounce off the opposing backboard and in.
They call it “the dream shot.” Chamberlin’s physics class is now analyzing the convoluted path.
Such is the price of fame. As of Friday, the first video had been seen on YouTube 7,092 times. The second, which they named “Hoopcamp Edition,” had been seen 23,122 times.
“This will die down,” Theriault said. “Eventually.”
“Yes,” Philbrook said. “Until we do another video.”