Nick Boyd, March Madness Buzzer Beater, Has Deep Verona Connections

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March Madness is famous for its stunning upsets, improbable comebacks, and last second buzzer beaters. Each year, college basketball’s top athletes create a new set of legendary performances.

One of the 2023 tournament’s most memorable moments has a surprising tie to Verona.

Nick Boyd, a starting guard at Florida Atlantic University, is part of the Hill family, who have lived in Verona for more than 60 years. Even though Boyd grew up in New York, he thinks of Verona as a second home.

“Verona holds a special place in my heart,” Boyd said. “My mom’s from there. We used to go there every week. We’d go to my grandma’s house to have dinner. I grew up there on the weekends.”

In the first round game, Boyd’s team was down two points with five seconds to go. His opponents, the Memphis Tigers, were favored going into the game and looked like strong favorites to advance to the Round of 32.

Florida Atlantic had one chance to pull off the upset. Boyd ran to the corner, caught the inbound pass, drove to the hoop, and let his shot go.

Luckily, the ball sunk in the hoop.

Memphis did not have time to respond. Within seconds, there was a massive celebration on Florida Atlantic’s sideline.

“It is hard for me to put it into perspective,” Boyd said. “I haven’t really had the time to sit back and think about it. It’s a dream come true to hit a game-winning shot that sends your team through to the next round.”

Nick’s mom, Linda Hill Boyd was able to think about the longer view. She sees the buzzer beater as a culmination of all the hard work Nick has put into playing basketball.

“All I know is that [Nick] works hard,” Boyd said. “He does everything he has to do. It paid off. I was so proud of him and so happy for him. He accomplished that. It’s a great feeling to see your child succeed when they work so hard to get somewhere.”

Almost all of Boyd’s family was there to celebrate with him. His parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins all made the journey to Columbus, Ohio to show their support.

“I knew they would be there,” Boyd said. “I could see them. They were in the front row. Especially after the first game, hitting the buzzer beater, it felt good to see my mom and see my family.”

Nick Boyd surrounded by his sister Natalie Boyd, aunt Tracey Hill, sister Alexandra Boyd, mom Linda Hill Boyd, cousin Giancarlo Jandoli and aunt Karen Jandoli.
The logistics of the trip were not simple. The Hill family did not know where the games would be played before last weekend. They did not know what the cost of the trip would be or how much work they’d have to miss.

Still, there was never a doubt about attending Boyd’s game. Tracey Hill, Nick’s aunt, immediately looked into the hotel prices, plane tickets, and accommodations when Florida Atlantic clinched its tournament bid.

“As soon as we knew the location, we started making plans,” Hill said.

Being supportive is a fundamental family value for the Hills. Tracey Hill remembers rooting for her siblings and her parents in her childhood.

“This is how we grew up,” Hill said. “With six kids growing up in the Hill family, when one of us succeeded, everybody was on board. My father had his tournaments. My brother has a coaching career. This is nothing unusual to us.”

In addition to Tracey, brother Fred Hill (pictured above with Nick) and sister Karen Hill Jandoli and her son Giancarlo Jandoli made the trip. Karen Jandoli is the owner of Dekko & Co. beauty salon, Tracey Hill owns Academy Apparel, and Fred Hill is CEO of the Team Hill Foundation.

Nick Boyd said he often draws on lessons from his late grandfather Fred Hill, who lived in Verona for most of his adult life. He was Rutgers’ baseball coach for 30 years.

“I learned tons of lessons from my grandfather,” Boyd recalled. “He instilled a strong work ethic in me. He taught me to keep going. There was never a day when he would complain about getting up early or going to practice. He was on the field hitting ground balls when he was 80 years old. Knowing how he worked, that’s all I really needed to see. When he passed away, it made my motivation that much stronger. Everything I do in his name because if he was here right now, he’d be so proud. He’d be [in the] front row, coaching me up.”

As the generations pass, the Hill family remains intent on emphasizing the value of team sports and looking out for the greater good. Linda Hill Boyd described how she kept these values strong.

“I have three girls and a boy,” Boyd said. “All of my children started playing sports from a very young age. I always encouraged it. It was great for their socialization to know how to be part of a team. All my kids played sports.”

Nick, who always aims to help younger athletes, echoed his mother’s sentiments.

“That’s what I love to do, honestly,” Boyd said. “Before I’m known as a basketball player, I want to be known as a good person. I like it when I give somebody an opportunity to learn or give somebody an opportunity to get in the gym.”

Florida Atlantic’s next game is against Tennessee. It will be played at Madison Square Garden on Thursday at 9 p.m. The Hill family will be there to cheer on Nick Boyd.

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